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Afghanistan air strike 'kills children' at Kunduz religious school

Afghan military bombs religious seminary, scores killed

A police official in Kunduz who spoke on condition of anonymity said 84 Taliban militants were either killed or injured in the bombing, including high-ranking Taliban members from Samangan, Takhar, Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces had attended the meeting and were among the casualties.

Radmanish also said that the civilians admitted into hospitals were hit by bullets, a claim denied by one victim's father.

The Kunduz strike apparently targeted Taliban officials and commanders; the Afghan government claims as many as 15 Taliban were killed. According to them about 300 civilians were at the madrassa at the time of the airstrike.

He said a government delegation is investigating the incident. Local journalists told Human Rights Watch that rescuers have brought numerous injured, including children, to Kunduz's regional hospital.

"The Afghan National Army, based on precise information, tried to destroy it to save the people from great disaster but there are reports that unfortunately civilian casualties were also caused in the attack", the statement said, adding that an investigation would be opened.

Haji Naim said mostly civilians had gathered in the madrassa for a Koran recitation and memorization graduation ceremony that had attracted religious students and scholars from northern Samangan, Baghlan, Takhar and Kunduz provinces.

The Afghan army, however, said no civilians were killed by the strikes and that the gathering was exclusively a Taliban meeting. The attack has been the subject of conflicting reports, with several media outlets placing the number of killed and wounded in the dozens, many of whom were civilians.

"I myself counted 35 bodies", Abdul Khalil said at a hospital in the provincial capital Kunduz - more than 50 kilometres from the air trike - where health officials said 57 injured had been taken.

The security source said the Taliban had started meeting at madrassas in the hope of avoiding air attacks.

Reportedly, the attack came during a large ceremony to recognize graduates of the school and to appoint new mullahs for the religious school. Afghan officials have been known to minimise civilian casualties.

Earlier this month, the Afghan Air Force dropped its first laser-guided bomb on a Taliban compound in the western province of Farah, where the armed group has gone on the offensive.

But the incident in Kunduz highlighted one of the risks of the greater use of Afghan air power under the new US strategy, the stated aim of which is to try to force the Taliban to the negotiating table.

"The NATO mission in Afghanistan sees building up the Afghan air force as a major priority", NPR's Diaa Hadid reports.

Backed by American military's airpower, the Afghan forces have launched extensive military campaign against the Taliban who have so far not responded to the landmark peace offer extended by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in February.