UNITED NATIONS — An increasing number of children have been killed and injured in the conflict in Afghanistan, mostly by the Taliban and other anti-government groups, according to a U.N. report released Monday.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the report, which covers a two-year period from September 1, 2008 to Aug. 30, 2010, that children continue to be victims of suicide and rocket attacks, improvised explosive devices, and military operations by the Taliban and other armed groups as well as Afghan and international forces.
The report cites examples of children used to carry out suicide attacks and plant bombs, and the recruitment of youngsters by armed groups as well as by the Afghan National Security Forces, despite a government ban on including anyone under the age of 18 in the military or police.
The report said civilian casualties linked to pro-government forces have decreased.
During the two-year period, the secretary-general said 1,795 children were injured or killed because of conflict-related violence, but he said that figure is assumed to be "underreported" because of the difficulty in gaining access to conflict areas.
"The reporting period was marked by increased military activity and a continued deterioration in security, which heightened children's vulnerability to conflict-related violations," Ban said.
In 2010, the report said women and children made up a greater proportion of those killed and injured than in 2009, with child casualties increasing 55 percent from the same period in 2009.
It said three-quarters of the civilian casualties were linked to the Taliban and other armed opposition groups, an increase of 53 percent from 2009. "On the other hand, civilian casualties attributable to pro-government forces decreased by 30 percent compared to the first half of 2009," it said.
The report said that "in the first half of 2010, there was a 155 percent increase in child deaths through improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks attributable to armed opposition groups as compared to the same period in 2009."
In many cases, it said, children were killed or injured when anti-government groups targeted checkpoints and civilian buildings near residential areas.
Ban expressed "grave concern" at the killing of children by armed groups, including the Taliban, on suspicion that they were spies or allegedly associated with or supporting international military forces.
"At least nine cases were reported of children executed on suspicion of spying for the international military forces, including the public hanging by the Taliban of a seven-year-old boy reported in Helmand province in June 2010," the report said.
The report said the recruitment and use of children by all parties to the conflict was observed throughout the country during the two-year reporting period. The U.N. said it was able to verify 26 of 47 reported incidents, including several cases of children used – sometimes unwittingly – to carry out suicide attacks and seven cases of children recruited from across the border in Pakistan.
Ban welcomed the government's signing of an action plan against recruiting and using children and strongly urged the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Hezv-i-Islam and all other armed groups fighting in Afghanistan to immediately stop using youngsters.
The report said information was collected from across the country on some 382 children detained on charges related to national security and 97 cases were confirmed as relating to the conflict. "All were aged between 9 and 17 and included one girl," it said.
Children also continued to be detained by international military forces, the report said, citing cases of two 16-year-olds held in different provinces for allegedly being Taliban members.