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KABUL, Afghanistan — Battles between the Taliban and government forces were responsible for the most Afghan civilian casualties in 2014, surpassing roadside bombs as the leading killer for the first time, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
A total of 3,699 Afghan civilians were killed and 6,849 wounded in the war last year, as fighting intensified in tandem with the sharp drawdown of U.S. and allied foreign troops who formally ended their combat role in December after 13 years.
The 22 percent rise in civilian deaths and injuries — the highest total since the U.N. began keeping records in 2009 — came despite U.S. generals' assessment that the newly trained Afghan army and police are winning the war.
"Mortars, IEDs, gunfire and other explosives destroyed human life, stole limbs and ruined lives at unprecedented levels," said Nicholas Haysom, the U.N. special representative in Afghanistan.
Ground battles killed 1,092 civilians and accounted for 34 percent of civilian deaths and injuries, compared to 28 percent caused by roadside bombs known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The report attributed 72 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries last year to the Taliban and their allies, who seek to re-establish radical Islamic rule.
Government forces were responsible for 14 percent of casualties, international forces' air strikes accounted for 2 percent and the fault could not be determined in 10 percent of cases.
Since 2001, nearly 3,500 foreign soldiers from 29 countries have been killed in Afghanistan, including about 2,200 Americans. Reliable insurgent casualty numbers are not available.
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