KABUL – The United Nations said on Tuesday that 28 civilians were killed and 249 injured in election day violence in Afghanistan last month.
The numbers are in sharp contrast to official figures that recorded just 37 civilians injured and no civilian deaths on the day the war-torn country voted to elect its new president.
A special report released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said violence during the entire political process, including campaigning, resulted in 85 civilians being killed and 373 injured.
The Afghan interior ministry had only reported the death of two police officers and 40 people, including 37 civilians, injured on the day of the polling.
“More than one-third of civilian casualties were children,” the UNAMA said in a statement, alleging that the Taliban were responsible for more than 80 percent of the civilian casualties.
“These attacks, along with public statements made by the Taliban, revealed a deliberate campaign intended to undermine the electoral process and deprive Afghan citizens of their right to participate in this important political process, freely and without fear,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Around 9.6 million citizens were registered to vote in the presidential election, in which the preliminary results are expected to be announced on Saturday.
But only around 27 percent of the people turned out to vote, according to the Independent Election Commission.
The insurgents have rejected the elections as a farce orchestrated by the United States.
The Taliban repeatedly threatened to attack the electoral process, and the biggest number of civilian casualties ahead of the elections were caused by two attacks: a suicide bombing at an election office in Kabul in July 28 and an attack on a campaign meeting by incumbent president Ashraf Ghani on Sept. 17
The UNAMA said that Taliban attacks often used methods that did not distinguish between the civilian population and security forces, such as mortars, grenades and improvised explosive devices.
However, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE that most of the civilian casualties were caused by government airstrikes and mortar attacks while justifying Taliban tactics.
“We had issued several pre-election statements to the people not to come out of homes on this day because we had attacks already planned, our targets were military forces,” Mujahid said.
The spokesperson said the rebel group had not directly attacked the civilian population, but admitted that “a few civilians might have been injured in some attacks by our fighters.”
The UNAMA said that despite the violence, the casualty figures were “significantly lower” that the parliamentary elections in 2018.
The UN body had reported 56 civilians deaths and 379 were injured during voting for the parliamentary elections, held on Oct. 20, 21 and 27.