Kabul - The number of children killed and wounded in Afghanistan's war jumped by 34% last year as the Taliban stepped up attacks across the country and continued to lay thousands of roadside bombs, the United Nations said on Saturday.
Overall civilian casualties were up by 14%, 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 UN 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.
UNAMA's report also noted an "alarming" new trend for 2013 - the increasing numbers of civilians being harmed in fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.
The UN recorded a total of 962 battles in which civilians were harmed last year - an average rate of nearly 20 such battles every week - and said civilian casualties caused by such fighting rose by 43% over the previous year.
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.