Kunduz (Afghanistan) (AFP) – The United Nations said Tuesday it was probing “disturbing reports of serious harm to civilians” in an Afghan airstrike on a religious school that security sources left dozens of children dead or wounded.
“Human Rights team on ground establishing facts. All parties reminded of obligations to protect civilians from impact of armed conflict,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a brief statement.
Hundreds of people were attending a graduation ceremony at the madrassa in a Taliban-controlled district in northeastern Afghanistan on Monday when Afghan Air Force helicopters struck, witnesses have told AFP.
At least 59 people, including Taliban commanders meeting at the compound in Dashte Archi district in Kunduz province, were killed in the attack, Afghan security sources told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Most of the civilian victims were children, they said.
“I myself counted 35 bodies,” Abdul Khalil told AFP at the hospital in the provincial capital Kunduz where health officials said 57 wounded had been taken.
So far the defence ministry has denied civilians were among the casualties.
“Twenty Taliban, including the commander of their Red Unit in the district, and also a key member of the Quetta Shura were killed,” defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told AFP on Monday.
The Red Unit is the insurgent group’s elite unit, and the Quetta Shura is its leadership council.
The same number were wounded, Radmanish added.