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UN: Afghanistan civilian casualties reach record high

A report released Wednesday by the United Nations cites increased ground engagements between parties to the armed conflict as the primary culprit.
Afghan soldiers stand around a damaged bus at the site of a suicide attack by the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 13, 2014.
Afghan soldiers stand around a damaged bus at the site of a suicide attack by the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 13, 2014.

More civilian deaths and injuries occurred in Afghanistan in 2014 than any prior year on record, according to a new report issued Wednesday by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Conflict-related deaths and injuries of Afghan civilians rose 22% last year, the report says, citing increased ground engagements -- in which parties to the conflict increasingly used explosive weapons systems such as mortars, rockets and grenades, sometimes indiscriminately, in civilian-populated areas -- as the uptick's primary culprit. 

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For the first time since 2009, more Afghan civilians were killed and injured in ground engagements than by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or any other tactic. Additionally, the report found that civilian deaths and injuries from ground operations surged by 54% in 2014, making them the leading cause of civilian casualties and the biggest killers of Afghan women and children in 2014. 

UNAMA documented 10,548 civilian casualties in 2014, including 3,699 civilian deaths (up 25%) and 6,849 civilian injuries (up 21%) for a 22% overall rise in civilian casualties since 2013. Since 2009, the armed conflict in Afghanistan has caused 47,745 civilian casualties with 17,774 Afghan civilians killed and 29,971 injured. 

Additional reporting by NBCNews' Marc Smith.