There were 11,002 civilian casualties in 2015 including 3,545 deaths, the UN said in its annual report on civilians in armed conflict, a four per cent rise over the previous high in 2014.

"The harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable," said Nicholas Haysom, the UN's special representative for Afghanistan.

Fighting and attacks in populated areas and major cities were described as the main causes of civilian deaths in 2015, underscoring a push by Taliban militants into urban centres "with a high likelihood of causing civilian harm", the report stated.

The UN began compiling the annual report in 2009. Including Taliban-claimed attacks, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan assigned responsibility for 62 percent of total civilian casualties in 2015 to anti-government elements.

But the report also noted a surge in casualties caused by pro-government forces, including the Afghan army and international troops.

Seventeen percent of all casualties in 2015 were caused by such forces - a 28 percent increase over 2014 – the report said. It was not possible to say which side caused the remaining 21 percent of casualties.

The report criticised Afghan forces in particular for their reliance on explosives in populated areas.

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