Afghan civilian casualties rise as NATO pulls out: UN

KABUL, Afghanistan - The number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan's war rose 14 percent last year, the UN said Saturday, with deaths almost reaching the record of 2011.

Civilians killed or wounded in the crossfire of fighting between government and Taliban-led insurgent forces was a marked new trend in 2013, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its annual report.

UNAMA put this down to the reduction of ground and air operations by the US-led NATO force as it withdraws after more than a decade of war.

Afghan forces have been taking an increasing role in the fight against the Taliban as the coalition withdraws by the end of 2014. About 58,000 NATO-led combat troops who are still in Afghanistan are due to leave by the end of the year.

The UN report voiced concern at civilians suffering beatings, looting and even summary executions at the hands of Afghan forces. A total of 8,615 civilian casualties were recorded in 2013 - 2,959 killed and 5,656 wounded - up 14 percent from 2012.

The rise in deaths, up seven percent from 2012, and injuries, up 17 percent, reverses the decline recorded last year. The death toll almost matches the peak figure of 3,133 recorded in 2011.

The conflict has claimed the lives of 14,064 civilians in the past five years. UNAMA attributed the vast majority - 74 percent - of civilian deaths and injuries to "anti-government elements" led by the Taliban.