Conflicts & War

Afghanistan to probe killing of 12 children in airstrike

Kabul, Oct 22 (efe-epa).- The Afghan defense ministry on Thursday said it would investigate the allegations about civilian casualties in northern Takhar province after local officials and the Taliban alleged that an airstrike on a religious seminary killed 12 children.

The Afghan forces carried out the airstrike in Baharak district on Wednesday after Taliban fighters killed several security men.

The defense ministry said it “has appointed an investigation team to assess allegations about civilian casualties resulting from this attack.”

The ministry statement came after some lawmakers from Takhar province, provincial council members, and the Taliban claimed that the airstrike killed 12 and wounded 18 students of a religious seminary.

The ministry said the security forces targeted a group of Taliban in the Hazara Qarluq area of the province on Wednesday night.

Some “12 Taliban, including several of their commanders, were killed as a result,” the ministry said.

It added the slain Taliban fighters were responsible for an attack on the Afghan National Police that left “a number of our police” dead in Baharak district.

But Amrullah Saleh, the first Afghan vice president, dismissed the news of the killing of children in the mosque as “baseless.”

He said the government had “undeniable proof” that those killed by the security forces were those who attacked the police.

“I saw the proof myself,” he said, adding he was writing the Facebook post with “governmental and moral authority.”

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed, in a statement, that the airstrike by the Afghan forces targeted a mosque in which children were attending religious studies.

“(Some) 12 children were martyred, 18 more, including the imam of the mosque, were injured. The mosque was completely destroyed,” Mujahid said.

The province has witnessed several bouts of violence in recent weeks during which Taliban militants and security forces have both suffered casualties.

On Wednesday, Talian fighters killed some 28 and wounded several cops in Taliban attacks. Militants also suffered heavy casualties, according to officials.

Violence has surged across the country in recent weeks, despite the Afghan government and the Taliban committing to be on the defensive to help the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks that are underway in Doha for over a month. EFE

The talks are a result of a peace deal signed between the United States and the insurgents in the Qatari capital of Doha on Feb.29 that laid the ground work for the phased withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that the Asian country would not be used for activities against Washington. EFE-EPA

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