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article imageAfghanistan probes civilian casualties in Kunduz military operation

By AFP     Jul 20, 2018 in World

Afghan authorities are probing reports that 14 civilians were killed or wounded during a military operation, the defence ministry said Friday, with several officials saying women and children were among the victims.

The casualties were caused by an air strike in the northern province of Kunduz on Thursday, Char Dara district governor Zalmai Farooqi and villagers told AFP.

Villager Haji Shireen said 13 people, all women or children, were killed in the aerial bombardment that also destroyed some houses in Robat village.

An AFP reporter said he saw 12 bodies when he visited the village on Thursday.

Kunduz regional hospital head Naeem Mangal said the bodies of 12 women and children had been brought to the medical facility.

"Women and children were martyred," Farooqi said, blaming "foreign" forces for the air strike.

US forces had carried out air strikes "in support of Afghan-led ground operations" in the district, NATO's Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

But "an on-the-ground assessment of those strikes revealed no indications they caused civilian casualties," it added.

The defence ministry statement did not specify if the casualties were caused by an air strike.

"A high-ranking military and government delegation has been appointed to closely investigate the incident," the statement said.

Kunduz governor spokesman Naimatullah Taimor confirmed an investigative team had arrived in Char Dara district.

The incident comes days after a UN report showed the number of civilians killed in the nearly 17-year conflict hit a record high in the first six months of 2018.

The toll of 1,692 fatalities was one percent more than a year earlier and the highest for the period since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began keeping records in 2009.

Another 3,430 people were wounded in the war, down five percent from the same period last year, the report said.

Air strikes caused 353 casualties in the six-month period, up 52 percent on last year. More than half of the civilian casualties were caused by the Afghan Air Force.

One of the worst incidents was in Kunduz in April, when an Afghan air strike on an outdoor religious gathering in Dashte Archi killed or wounded 107 people, mostly children, a previous UNAMA report found.

The government and military said it had targeted a Taliban base where senior members of the group were planning attacks.

Kunduz has been the scene of fierce fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, which has been resurgent since the withdrawal of NATO combat forces at the end of 2014.

As many as 40 security forces were killed in a series of Taliban attacks in Dashte Archi district earlier this month, security sources told AFP previously.

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