Number of kids killed in Afghanistan jumps, U.N. says

Afghan men prepare graves for seven civilians, including four women and two children, killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the Alingar district of Laghman province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 3, 2013.

KABUL, Afghanistan The number of children killed and injured in Afghanistan's war has risen sharply this year, the U.N. Children's Fund, said, calling the trend "unacceptable" and "very worrying."

At least 414 children were killed or injured in the first four months of this year, up 27 percent over the same period the previous year, UNICEF said.

Of those, 121 children were killed and 293 were injured through April 30, UNICEF said in figures released Thursday. Roadside bombs and suicide attacks accounted for the largest number of casualties — 37 percent — and the U.N. has particularly criticized the Taliban's use of indiscriminate weapons triggered by victims' stepping on or driving over a pressure plate as a possible war crime.

Violence is increasing overall in Afghanistan as the Taliban and other militants press an intense offensive against government targets as international troops hand over security to Afghans. The international coalition is set to end its military mission by the end of 2014.

The escalating attacks have caused civilian casualties to soar, including children.

Last week alone, a suicide attack near a school in the eastern province of Paktia killed nine children and wounded seven others, and a father and three children died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

And on June 6, an air strike by international military forces killed three children and injured seven in Kunar province.

UNICEF said that figures show 56 percent of overall child casualties were caused by insurgents and 14 percent caused by international and Afghan security forces. Another 30 percent showed no clear blame.