Afghanistan: UN mission demands end to fighting as Taliban advance
New York: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Tuesday called for an immediate end to fighting in urban areas, as the Taliban continues a ground assault in the south of the country.
UNAMA said civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence as fighting enters cities, according to a post on its official Twitter account.
Afghan forces have been intensifying operations against the Taliban, which has launched a major nationwide offensive in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign troops over the past few months.
The extremists are advancing on provincial capitals, after making gains in rural areas and smaller cities.
Speaking in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists that latest reports indicate some 40 people were killed, and 118 injured, over the past 24 hours in Lashkagah, capital of Helmand Province. Five more civilians were killed in Kandahar, and 42 wounded.
“The Mission said that the Taliban ground offensive and Afghan National Army airstrikes are causing the most harm, and added it is deeply concerned about indiscriminate shooting and damage to health facilities and civilian homes,” said Mr. Dujarric.
“All parties must do more to protect civilians or the impact will be catastrophic, according to the UN Mission in Afghanistan.”
UN assisting Afghans
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is continuing to provide emergency lifesaving assistance to families who have been newly displaced by the violence, Mr. Dujarric added, noting that nearly 360,000 Afghans have fled their homes this year due to conflict.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has deployed Mobile Health Teams to respond to affected communities, and provide quick relief in the form of health and psychosocial support to the most vulnerable.
Security Council condemns attack
Also on Tuesday, the UN Security Council called for those responsible for last Friday’s deadly assault against the UN compound in Herat to be brought to justice.
The Council issued a statement condemning in the strongest terms the “deplorable attack”, which killed an Afghan security forces guard and wounded several others.
“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about the high levels of violence in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s military offensive, and called for an immediate reduction of violence,” the statement said.
“They also expressed deep concern about the number of reported serious human rights abuses and violations in communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country.”
The Council underlined that deliberate attacks targeting civilians, and UN personnel and compounds, may constitute war crimes.
Support for UNAMA
Members also underlined their support for UNAMA, and emphasized the importance of the safety and security of UN personnel.
Ambassadors called on the Afghan authorities and the Taliban “to engage meaningfully in an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in order to make urgent progress towards a political settlement and a ceasefire.”