Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by almost 30 percent in the first three months of 2013, a UN envoy has said, describing a recent Taliban attack on court staff as a "war crime".
Jan Kubis, UN special representative for Afghanistan, said the "troubling" rise, compared to the same period last year, followed a 12 percent drop in civilian casualties over the whole of 2012.
He told a NATO ministerial briefing in Brussels on Tuesday that 475 civilians were killed and 872 wounded from January to March.
"I once again call on anti-government groups to cease targeting civilians, using children in suicide operations and attacking public places including places of worship," Kubis said, in a copy of a speech released by the UN in Kabul.
The UN official described an April 3 attack on a court complex in the western city of Farah as "nothing less than a war crime".
Taliban statements that courthouses and judicial staff are now considered targets "are of extreme concern", he said.
Taliban gunmen killed 46 people including 36 civilians at the complex in a bid to free insurgents standing trial. They moved ruthlessly from room to room, shooting everyone they found, officials recounted.
At least another 95 people were wounded.
Kubis also called on Afghan and US-led NATO forces to take continuing measures to prevent civilian casualties and to investigate abuses.
Overall attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups rose by 47 percent in the first quarter compared to January-March 2012, according to a study by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.
It said 10 percent of the attacks targeted civilians seen as associated with the Kabul government, which the Taliban are striving to topple.