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KABUL - The number of children killed and wounded in Afghanistan's war jumped by 34 percent last year as the Taliban stepped up attacks across the country and continued to lay thousands of roadside bombs, the United Nations said Saturday.
Overall civilian casualties were up by 14 percent, reversing 2012's downward trend and making 2013 one of the deadliest years of the 12-year war for civilians.
The rising civilian toll underscores mounting levels of violence in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have ramped up attacks to try to gain ground and shake the Afghan government's confidence as international combat troops prepare to complete their withdrawal at the end of the year.
The U.N. Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in its annual report that 2,959 civilians were killed in the war last year — including 561 children — and that an overall total of 5,656 were wounded.
By comparison, there were 2,768 civilian deaths and 4,821 civilians wounded in 2012, and 3,133 deaths and 4,706 wounded in 2011.
In terms of deaths and injuries, 2013 was also the worst year of the war for Afghan women and children, with most of the casualties caused by either stepping on or driving over roadside bombs or getting caught in fighting.
"It is the awful reality that most women and children were killed and injured in their daily lives — at home, on their way to school, working in the fields or traveling to a social event," said Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the U.N. mission, calling on all sides to work to protect civilians from harm.
Overall, the deadliest year of the war was 2011, when 3,133 civilians died as the Taliban launched a fierce pushback with roadside bombs and other attacks against the increased number of international forces who wrested back much of the territory controlled by the insurgents.