Afghan air raid kills at least 12 in mosque: Officials

Victims of the attack include children. The attack on a religious school in the northeastern province of Takhar also wounded 14 others.

An aircraft bombarded the mosque, which housed a religious school, after receiving information that Taliban fighters were hiding there [File: Hoshang Hashim/AFP]

An Afghan military air raid targeting Taliban fighters has killed at least 12 people, including children, and wounded 14 in an attack that hit a religious school and mosque in the northeastern province of Takhar, provincial officials said.

In an account disputed by the national government, local authorities said on Thursday that 11 children and a prayer leader were killed in the attack.

Hadi Jamal, a spokesperson for an Afghan military unit, confirmed the raid on Wednesday evening but said it was “not clear if the attack had accidentally killed civilians and children” and that an investigation had been launched. He did not elaborate on what kind of air attack had been carried out.

Taliban fighters killed more than 40 Afghan security forces in the early morning of Wednesday, provincial councillor Mohammad Azam Afzali told DPA news agency.

An aircraft bombarded the mosque after receiving information that Taliban fighters who were involved in the bloody attack on security forces were hiding there, Afzali added.

However, the fighters had already left the mosque, Afzali and another security source said.

The Taliban had mounted an offensive to overrun Baharak district in Takhar, prompting government forces to call in air support, provincial officials said.

Abdul Qayoom Hayrat, head of the provincial health department in Takhar said that 10 of the dead were members of Afghan special forces.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, confirmed the armed group was engaged in fighting government forces in Takhar.

Peace talks

Afghanistan is suffering heightened levels of violence while talks are under way in Qatar that could help the United States find a way out of its longest war.

The US signed an agreement with the Taliban in February to promote a negotiated end to the 19-year conflict, and talks between the armed group and the US-backed government began more than a month ago, but have yet to yield any major breakthrough.

The armed group have so far refused to accept a ceasefire. Experts expect long and tough negotiations before a ceasefire can be agreed upon.

For more than a week now, there has been heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan. More than 100 civilians have died and tens of thousands of people have been driven from their villages.

Source: News Agencies