KABUL — The number of civilians killed or wounded in the Afghan war increased by 20 percent during the first 10 months of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to a U.N. report issued this week.
The top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, said as the world body released its latest quarterly report that insurgents are likely to stage high-profile attacks in the months ahead.
"Before it gets better, it may get worse," he said.
The report concluded that the number of civilian casualties attributable to insurgents increased by 25 percent during the 10-month period. It said insurgent groups were responsible for killing or injuring 4,738 civilians during that period, while 742 were killed or wounded by Afghan and international troops — an 18 percent drop.
In a statement Thursday on its website, the Taliban called the civilian casualty figures in the report "a propaganda stunt aimed at concealing American brutalities."
U.S. airstrikes, long controversial in Afghanistan because of the high incidence of civilian casualties associated with them, were the leading cause of civilian deaths by NATO forces, the report said. At least 162 civilians were killed in airstrikes and 120 were wounded during the 10-month period.
On Thursday, NATO said it was investigating reports that one of its units had mistakenly killed two Afghans in northwestern Faryab province.
The grim statistics come as U.S. military officials are claiming some success in their effort to halt the Taliban's momentum as the war enters its 10th year.
De Mistura said insurgent groups are likely to try to undermine NATO's sense of traction by staging spectacular attacks in the near future.
"We should be ready, I'm afraid, for the next few months, for some tense security environment," he said.