Afghan air force fired rockets, machine guns on religious ceremony: UN report

KABUL: Afghanistan’s air force sprayed an outdoor religious gathering with rockets and heavy machine gun fire last month killing and wounding 107 people, mostly children, a UN report said Monday.

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The April 2 airstrike struck a ceremony attended by hundreds of men and boys in Dasht-e-Archi district, a Taliban stronghold in the northern province of Kunduz, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

The government and military have said the Afghan Air Force (AAF) targeted a Taliban base where senior members of the group were planning attacks.

But Afghan security sources and witnesses told AFP that AAF helicopters struck a madrasa where a graduation ceremony had been under way.

During its weeks-long investigation, UNAMA verified that 36 people were killed — 30 of them children — in the attack.

Seventy-one people were wounded, including 51 children, it said.

However it said the tolls could be higher, adding that it received “credible information” suggesting at least 38 people had been killed and 84 injured.

“A key finding of this report is that the government used rockets and heavy machine gun fire on a religious gathering, resulting in high numbers of child casualties,” UNAMA said.

UNAMA’s casualty toll is lower than the original toll of 59 killed and 57 wounded given to AFP by security sources and health officials.

Its investigators could not confirm if the casualties were all civilians or whether Taliban leaders had been present at the time of the airstrike.

“However, even if the government had a legitimate military target, UNAMA questions the extent to which the government undertook steps and concrete measures to prevent civilian casualties,” the report said.

AFP

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