A brutal terrorist attack which killed at least 50 civilians in Afghanistan over the weekend is an “atrocity” and may amount to a war crime, the top United Nations envoy to the country declared today as he condemned the indiscriminate suicide bombing in “the strongest terms.”
On 23 November, a suicide attacker detonated an improvised explosive device in a sports field in the Yahyakhail district of Afghanistan's southeastern province of Paktika. At least 50 civilians who were attending a volleyball match were immediately killed while another 60 were injured. According to reports, many children were among the dead and injured.
“This indiscriminate attack in an area crowded with civilians demonstrates a complete disregard for civilian lives,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Nicholas Haysom said in a statement.
“Deliberately and indiscriminately causing death and injury to such a large number of civilians is an atrocity.”
In a statement released by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon similarly denounced the attack as “fundamentally abhorrent” and expressed his “steadfast solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in refusing to be cowed by such attacks.”
“He hopes those responsible will be brought swiftly to justice,” concluded the Secretary-General.
2014 has been the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan since 2009. The UN mission in the country has documented a rising number of civilian casualties attributed, in large part, to increased ground engagements and the increased use of improvised explosive devices – both of which are killing and injuring more Afghan civilians than previously documented by UNAMA.
In its statement, UNAMA reiterated that the indiscriminate use of explosives in areas crowded by civilians is “a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime.”
“All parties to the armed conflict in Afghanistan – including all Anti-Government Elements – are bound to uphold their legal obligations to at all times avoid harm to civilians,” it added.
For its part, the Security Council equally condemned the “reprehensible acts of terrorism” committed in Afghanistan in a press statement while also reaffirming that terrorism is “criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation.”
The 15-member Council declared their determination to combat terrorism “by all means” and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, adding that Afghanistan's process towards peace and stability would be irreversible in the face of such heinous acts.
“No terrorist act can reverse the path towards Afghan-led peace, democracy and stability in Afghanistan, which is supported by the people and the Government of Afghanistan and by the international community,” the statement read.