The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said it will investigate an airstrike targeting the Taliban that reportedly killed dozens of civilians in a religious school in the northeastern Kunduz province.
“UNAMA actively looking in to disturbing reports of serious harm to civilians yesterday from airstrike at #DashtiArchi, #Kunduz,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan tweeted on Tuesday, April 3.
“Human Rights team on ground establishing facts. All parties reminded of obligations to protect civilians from impact of armed conflict. #Afghanistan.”
On Monday, Afghan officials said an airstrike on a madrassa in the Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province caused multiple casualties, including the deaths of dozens of civilians. Hundreds of people were gathered in the school for a graduation, and some reports have put the number of civilians killed as high as 60.
A defense ministry spokesman confirmed an airstrike in Dasht-e-Archi district but described the location as a kind of Taliban “training center,” and denied civilians were among the casualties.
A spokesperson for U.S. Forces Afghanistan said they did not conduct airstrikes in the area on Monday.
Update, 1430 GMT:
The Afghan government has dispatched two teams to investigate the incident, AFP reported defense ministry spokesperson Mohammad Radmanish as saying on Tuesday.
Radmanish, who denied on Monday that there were civilian casualties in the strike, said the victims had gunshot wounds from weapons the Afghans did not use.
“Half of them (civilians in hospital) have gunshot wounds, hit by light weapons that we didn’t use. We used rockets fired by MD-530 helicopters – how were they hit by bullets?” he was quoted as saying.
President Ashraf Ghani has also appointed a commission to investigate reports of civilian casualties, his office said.
Kunduz police chief General Abdul Hamid Hamidi told AFP on Tuesday that “72 of the enemy” had been killed in the airstrike.
Hamidi added that five civilians also died and another 52 were wounded but he denied a madrassa or mosque had been hit. Security forces have donated large quantities of blood to the hospital.
The Taliban has confirmed the attack on the religious school but denied that any of its militants had been there.
With reporting from AFP