Afghanistan's war is getting deadlier for its civilians with the toll from crossfire and ground battles rising sharply, the United Nations has said in a report.
The number killed or injured in the first six months of the year rose by a quarter from 2013 levels to nearly 5,000 people, the bloodiest total since the UN began keeping records in 2009. Women and children are particularly badly affected.
It was also the first time that ground fighting has proved more dangerous for civilians than the often indiscriminate homemade bombs that have become a key Taliban weapon, a worrying sign that the conflict may only get more bloody as Nato forces head home.
The withdrawal of well-equipped and heavily armed foreign troops from most districts has made it easier for insurgent forces to infiltrate towns and villages, so battles more often take place among houses, shops or government buildings, the report says.
Both sides often use weapons like mortars and rockets that allow them to keep their distance from enemy fighters, but are very risky for civilians in the area, the bi-annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict says.
"In 2014, the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, public places and near the homes of ordinary Afghans, with death and injury to women and children in a continued disturbing upward spiral," said Georgette Gagnon, the UN's director of human rights in Afghanistan.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/09/afghanistan-war-civilian-toll-united-nations-report