UN says 2018 saw greatest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan

More civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year than in any of the previous nine years of the increasingly bloody conflict, according to a U.N. report released Sunday, which blamed the spike in deaths on increased suicide bombings by the Islamic State group and stepped up aerial attacks by U.S.-led coalition forces.

In its annual report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said 3,804 civilians were killed last year, the highest number since the international organization began tallying figures in 2009. Another 7,189 were wounded.

The report comes amid efforts to find a peaceful end to the 17-year war, which have accelerated since the appointment in September of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is to begin another round of talks with the Taliban on Monday in the Gulf state of Qatar, where they maintain a political office.

U.N. envoy Tadamichi Yamamoto called the spiraling number of civilian casualties “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians are displaced in their own country after fleeing fighting in their home provinces. Tens of thousands more have fled their homeland, seeking safety in neighboring countries and in Europe.

According to the report, 63 percent of all civilian casualties were caused by insurgents, with the breakdown blaming the Taliban for 37 percent of the dead and wounded, the Islamic State group for 20 percent, and a collection of other anti-government groups for the remaining 6 percent.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi rejected the report blaming most of the deaths on “blind U.S. bombardments.”