KABUL - Afghan women and girls are increasingly victims of violence with a 20 percent increase last year in the number killed or injured even though the number of civilian casualties fell for the first time in years, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
Reinforcing fears about a rise in insecurity as foreign combat troops prepare to leave by next year, the United Nations said the country faced a growing threat from the return of armed groups.
The threat to Afghanistan's civilians in the 11-year war has become a significant source of stress in the relationship between President Hamid Karzai and his international backers, particularly when civilian deaths are caused by foreign forces.
An annual U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan showed a 12 percent drop in civilian deaths in 2012 to 2,754, from 3,131 in 2011.
It was the first fall in the number since the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) started measuring such casualties in 2007.
But despite the good news, the United Nations said there had been a 20 percent increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed or injured in 2012, with more than 300 women and girls killed and more than 560 injured.