ISLAMABAD - The United Nations says it is investigating allegations that an army airstrike in northeastern Afghanistan killed 12 children and injured 18 others in a religious school.
The deadly raid Wednesday in Takhar province came a day after the Taliban ambushed and killed nearly 40 Afghan security forces there.
The U.N. office in Kabul promised in a tweet Thursday that it would issue the findings of its probe into the strike “when complete.”
UNAMA civilian protection team following up on allegations of ANA airstrike yesterday against Taliban in #Takhar province killing 12 children, girls & boys, & injuring 18 other civilians. UN will issue findings when complete. #Afghanistan— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) October 22, 2020
The Afghan Ministry of Defense said in a statement that all the attack victims were Taliban insurgents. However, it noted, a Defense Ministry team has been tasked to “assess allegations” of civilian casualties resulting from the action.
Azam Afzali, a member of the Takhar provincial council, told VOA the Afghan air force had mistaken the mosque-cum-religious school for a Taliban hideout. He said those killed and wounded were children receiving Islamic education at the facility.
Separately, NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan confirmed Thursday that a roadside bomb blast in southern Kandahar province had injured two Romanian soldiers. The military personnel were on patrol Wednesday when an improvised explosive device struck their convoy.
The Taliban have staged major offensives in Afghanistan in recent weeks despite launching their first-ever direct peace talks with representatives of the Kabul government in Qatar’s capital, Doha, a month ago.
The United States has brokered the historic intra-Afghan dialogue to help find a negotiated settlement to the conflict and end Washington’s 19-year military involvement in Afghanistan, America’s longest.
The Kabul-Taliban negotiations stemmed from a historic deal the Trump administration struck with the insurgents in February. The pact called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops within 14 months in return for assurances from the Taliban that they would prevent al-Qaida and other transnational terrorists from operating in insurgent-controlled Afghan territory.
The deal also bound the Taliban to engage in peace talks with rival Afghan groups to discuss a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing arrangement to govern postwar Afghanistan.
The U.S.-Taliban accord also required the insurgents to halt attacks on American and allied troops, while the U.S. military committed to scale back airstrikes against the Taliban.
But both Taliban and U.S. officials have in recent days accused each other of violating terms of their agreement, which has threatened to derail the peace process.