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Afghan Fighting Kills at Least 7 Civilians, Mostly Children

Relatives grieve over the bodies of children who were killed during fighting in Ghazni, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2018.

A rocket attack Friday killed at least seven civilians, mostly children, and injured three more in central-eastern Afghanistan.

There were conflicting reports about who was responsible for the deadly incident in the Ghazni province.

A provincial government spokesman, while speaking to VOA, accused Taliban insurgents of firing the rocket on civilian homes in Qara Baghi village and causing the casualties.

Hassan Reza Yusufi, a member of Ghazni's elected provincial council, told VOA that a counterinsurgency military operation was underway in the area, and the casualties occurred when Afghan forces’ airstrike hit a civilian population.

Yusufi claimed the attack left eight people dead, including seven children and a woman, and wounded three other civilians.

The Taliban also rejected official claims the insurgent group was responsible for Friday’s attack.

Ghazni is among Afghan provinces where insurgents control or contest several districts and frequently clash with government forces.

Civilian casualties rising

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, says civilian casualties rose to record numbers in 2017.

UNAMA's head, Tadamichi Yamamoto, on Thursday reiterated his call for all parties involved in the conflict to do more to ensure protection of Afghan civilians.

Yamamoto told VOA his mission is working closely with the Afghan government, international forces and also the Taliban to ask them not to target civilians. He lamented that while warring sides have expressed the intent to minimize civilian losses, they have not yet taken enough action to make that happen.

“Still, civilian casualties keep on increasing and it is tragic. But there have been some efforts, awareness on the part of all those concerned that [civilian casualties] should not take place. So, we have to do more,” said the UNAMA chief.

In 2016, about 3,500 Afghan civilians were killed and nearly 8,000 were wounded in 2016 — the highest recorded by UNAMA since it began documenting civilian casualties in 2009.

Separately, a suicide car bomber Friday evening hit an Afghan police convoy in the southern city of Kandahar, killing at least four members of the security forces and wounding several others.