KABUL (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross removed more than twice as many dead combatants from Afghan battlefields in 2014 than in the previous year as fighting intensified, the charity said on Monday.
The ICRC retrieved the remains of 1,372 dead fighters in the 12-month period, up from 620 the year before.
The Red Cross, a neutral party in the war, retrieves casualties mainly for the Afghan security forces and the militants they fight. U.S.-led foreign forces, who officially ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, mainly use their own evacuation and health services.
The number of injured fighters rose by more than a third last year, the charity said, ascribing the increase to heightened violence in remote regions of Afghanistan that also restricted civilians’ access to healthcare.
“Persistent and fierce fighting, including serious violations of the rules of war, continue to have a deplorable impact on the Afghan population,” said the head of ICRC in Afghanistan, Jean-Nicolas Marti.
“For the victims of the conflict, the situation might deteriorate even further as the funding of humanitarian aid dwindles in the country,” he said in statement
Despite the formal end to foreign participation in the war, Afghan troops remain locked in a fierce fight with Taliban militants trying to gain territory. Last year was the most violent since the war began, as NATO troops began to withdraw and Taliban insurgents tried to disrupt a presidential election.
The Red Cross only retrieves casualties when called on by combatants to do so, usually when the injured or dead are behind enemy lines.
More than 10,000 foreign soldiers remain in Afghanistan and continue to engage in combat when needed. On Monday a U.S. drone strike killed at least six alleged militants, including a senior commander suspected of having started to work for Islamic State.
The Red Cross said civilians were frequently caught up in the fighting but that the past year had seen an 18 percent decline in patients accessing medical services due to the worsening security situation.
The United Nations has said at least 3,188 Afghan civilians were killed in the intensifying war with the Taliban in 2014, making it the deadliest year on record for non-combatants.
Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Gareth Jones