The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has said that it is currently investigating allegations that at least 32 civilians were killed and a further 19 injured in airstrikes in Kunduz city, which is in the north of the country, last Thursday.
“The loss of civilian life is unacceptable and undermines efforts toward building peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in a news release issued yesterday.
“When conducting aerial operations, international military forces should take all feasible measures to minimize civilian harm, including full analysis of the context for aerial strikes,” he added.
In the early hours of 3 November, a series of airstrikes were carried out in Buz-e-Kandahari area of Kunduz city, following ground operations conducted by international and Afghan security forces there, in which pro-Government forces came under attack by anti-Government elements.
In a statement released Saturday, United States Forces-Afghanistan acknowledged it had conducted air-to-ground engagements at that time in that area, with the commander, General John W. Nicholson, expressing his deep regret for the loss of innocent lives.
Preliminary findings indicate that the aerial operation killed at least 32 civilians and injured an additional 19 civilians, the vast majority of whom were women and children. UNAMA also received reports that the air strikes severely damaged at least 22 houses.
UNAMA urged authorities to ensure an independent, impartial and prompt investigation at the earliest opportunity, and for appropriate steps to be taken to ensure accountability, compensation for victims and the prevention of such incidents in the future.According to the news release, this incident took place in the context of significant countrywide violence, with civilians bearing the brunt.
In the past week, the Mission has documented 46 separate incidents of conflict-related violence, resulting in severe civilian harm, including deaths and injuries from ground engagements, improvised explosive devices, aerial attacks from rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, targeted killings and explosive remnants of war.
Between 30 October and 5 November, the mission documented a preliminary figure of 206 civilian casualties, 95 deaths and 111 injuries.
In accordance with its mandate to support the protection of civilians in armed conflict, UNAMA will continue to investigate credible allegations of harm caused to civilians by all parties to the conflict. Fuller information on this and other serious incidents will be provided in the Mission’s 2016 Protection of Civilians Annual Report, slated for release in January 2017.
The UN Mission expressed its sincere condolences to the families of victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides ‘good offices’; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.
‘Good offices’ are diplomatic measures UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.