Civilian casualties in Afghanistan soared to a record high in the first half of 2016, the UN said Monday, with children in particular paying a heavy price for growing insecurity as the conflict escalates. The UN report, which comes days after the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, cited increasing ground combat around heavily populated areas as the leading cause of casualties. Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 were wounded -- a four percent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.
Southeast Asian nations Monday ducked direct criticism of Beijing over its claims to the South China Sea, in a diluted statement produced after days of disagreement that gives the superpower a diplomatic victory. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) avoided mention of a ruling by a UN-backed tribunal in early July that rejected China's territorial claims and infuriated Beijing. Instead, ASEAN, gathered in the Laos capital Vientiane for the first time since the ruling, called for "self-restraint" from all parties in the strategic waterway in a soft statement that edged away from a showdown with regional powerhouse China.