Air, ground attacks kill civilians hours after Afghans talk peace

Children among a dozen killed in twin attacks as Afghan leaders and Taliban commit to ‘zero’ civilian deaths in Qatar.

In this Tuesday, March 15, 2016 file photo, Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard, following weeks of heavy clashes to recapture the area from Taliban militants in Dand-e Ghouri district in Baghl
Air attacks between January and March by both Afghan and international forces caused 145 deaths [File: Massoud Hossaini/AP]

Government forces in Afghanistan have killed several civilians in two separate attacks, hours after Afghan leaders and Taliban representatives resolved to end non-combatant casualties at a meeting in Qatar.

An air raid at a village in northern Baghlan province killed a mother and her six children on Tuesday, according to provincial council member Shamsulhaq Barakzai.

The attack came shortly after a two-day intra-Afghan dialogue concluded in Qatar’s capital Doha, where the delegates agreed on a road map for peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

In a statement, the Afghan defence ministry acknowledged that seven members of a family were killed in the air attack, which it said was carried out for “the elimination of the enemy”.


The statement, which added that the ministry had assigned a team to investigate the incident, came after residents of Kotub Khiel village carried the seven dead bodies to the provincial capital of Pul-e-Kumri and blocked traffic in protest.

Children among the dead

Hikmat, a neighbour of the family, told Al Jazeera that the father, a farmer identified as Ismael, was wounded in the raid and was undergoing treatment in a local hospital.

“Unfortunately, Ismael’s house was hit in the air attack, which killed his wife and children on the spot,” Hikmat said. 

“For 15 years, everything he (Ismael) said he did was for those children, and now they are dead and his life has no meaning,” he said.

Meanwhile, two doctors, two patients and a guard were killed in an overnight raid by Afghan security forces on a hospital in Wardak province, Haji Akhter Mohammad, head of the provincial council, told Al Jazeera.

“It is with great sorrow that I have to say a hospital was raided, where two patients died,” he said. 

“Hospitals, schools and homes are being targeted in this war. There has to be a mutual understanding on this from all sides involved in the war in Afghanistan.”

Security forces also arrested a doctor working at the hospital, which is based in the Tangi Syedan area of Daimirdad district and funded by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

The authorities have given no explanation for the raid or the arrest of the doctor.

Between January and March this year, air operations by Afghan and international forces have caused at least 145 deaths, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the total deaths during that period, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its quarterly report in April.

Women and children comprised half of those casualties (145 deaths and 83 injuries), according to the UN agency.

Grim reality despite truce efforts

The deadly attacks highlighted the grim reality faced by Afghan civilians, despite an escalation in efforts to bring the various actors involved in the country’s long-running war to the negotiating table.

The intra-Afghan meeting in Doha – sponsored by Qatar and Germany – between Afghan politicians, civil society members, including women, and the Taliban was seen as a substantive step in that direction.

In a joint statement issued early on Tuesday, the two sides pledged to “minimise civilian casualties to zero” and guarantee the security of public institutions such as schools, religious centres, mosques and hospitals.

Meanwhile, the latest round of talks between the United States and the Taliban to explore ways to end the 18-year Afghanistan war also concluded in Doha on Tuesday.

US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, posted on Twitter that he was headed to China before returning to Washington to “report and consult” on the Afghan peace process.

The US-Taliban talks are aimed at hammering out details of a framework agreement reached in January, which includes a timeline for US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a ceasefire and a Taliban guarantee to not allow foreign forces to use the country as a staging ground for foreign attacks.

Source: Al Jazeera