The number of civilians killed or wounded rose 31 percent in the first six months of the year, the report said.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan continued to climb in the first half of 2010, with an increasing number of children in the toll and a spike in the recently troubled northeast. More than ever, the deaths were caused by insurgents, the United Nations said in a report released Tuesday.
In its midyear report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, known as Unama, said the number of civilians wounded and killed increased by nearly a third in the first six months of the year, as coalition forces raised the level of military action against insurgents.
In that period, 1,271 civilians were killed and 1,997 wounded, the report said, with more than three-quarters attributable to what it called “antigovernment elements.”
Death and injury to children were up 55 percent, with 176 killed and 389 wounded, the report said, noting that improvised bombs were often placed in areas frequented by the young, like parks and markets.
The single biggest cause of the increase in civilian casualties was insurgent bombings, including both suicide bombings and homemade bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices. Together they caused 557 deaths, 61 percent of the total.
“This is a wake-up call for us,” the top United Nations official in Kabul, Staffan de Mistura, said at a news conference. “By looking at the figures, we suddenly have a trend of increase which we have the duty to raise publicly, in particularly with those who are causing these deaths.”
Since 2009, when the United States military made it a high priority to reduce civilian casualties, the trend has been for a far lower percentage of them to be caused by the military, and far more by the Taliban and other insurgents.
In 2007, less than half of the civilian casualties were caused by the insurgents, according to United Nations statistics. The new figure, an increase of 53 percent over the same period last year, was the most significant change to date.
“Nine years into the conflict, measures to protect Afghan civilians effectively and to minimize the impact of the conflict on basic human rights are more urgent than ever,” said Georgette Gagnon, human rights director for Unama.
Mr. de Mistura, the ranking United Nations official in Afghanistan, had harsh criticism for the insurgents’ conduct, noting their widespread and increased use of indiscriminate weapons like roadside bombs in civilian areas, and their tendency to fight from civilian cover.
“People who are part of this conflict should not be using human shields, should not be fighting from where civilians are,” he said.
Over all, civilian casualties caused by government or coalition forces declined by 30 percent for the period. Deaths of civilians from NATO aerial bombings, once the leading cause of such casualties, were down 64 percent over the same period in 2009, for a total of 69 civilian deaths, the United Nations said.
The report ascribed the decrease to an order in July 2009 from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the United States commander at the time, which greatly limited the use of airstrikes where there was a risk of civilian casualties.
The overall 31 percent increase in civilian casualties was also attributable to an increase in military operations, particularly in southern and southeastern Afghanistan, the report said, as larger numbers of NATO forces have poured into the country and military operations have increased.
In the northeastern part of the country, until recently relatively quiet, the increase in civilian deaths in the first half of the year was 136 percent over the same period in 2009.
The report also noted an increased use of intimidation and assassination of the civilian population by the Taliban, singling out anyone “perceived to be” connected with the government or international forces.
In 2009, such assassinations averaged 3.6 per week, increasing to 7 per week in the first four months of 2010, then increasing to 18 per week in May and June of 2010, the report said.
A statement on Tuesday from NATO’s international force welcomed the report’s findings, but added a comment from the new commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, taken from his recent tactical directive to coalition soldiers.
“Every Afghan death diminishes our cause,” General Petraeus said. “While we have made progress in our efforts to reduce coalition-caused civilian casualties, we know the measure by which our mission will be judged is protecting the population from harm by either side.”