Afghan President Ashraf Ghani apologized to the families of dozens of children killed in an Afghan Air Force strike on a religious school in Kunduz province last month.
A United Nations investigation found that the April 7 airstrike on a madrassa in the Taliban-controlled Dasht-e-Archi district killed and wounded at least 107 people, including 81 children.
“The difference between evildoers and a legitimate government is that a legitimate government apologises for the mistakes made,” Ghani told families of the victims, according to a statement from his office.
The U.N. was able to verify that 30 children were killed and 51 injured. Six adult men were killed and 20 wounded, it said. Between 500 and 1,500 men and boys had attended the ceremony for nine madrassa students who had completed a memorization of the Quran.
The Taliban has vowed revenge, saying that its own investigation found over 200 casualties, including 59 deaths, mainly children, scholars and elderly men.
Ghani’s office said the government would compensate the families and build a mosque to honor the victims.
The Afghan defense ministry described the location as a Taliban training center.The government said that 20 Taliban, including a commander of the ‘Red Unit’ commandos and key member of the leadership council Quetta Shura were killed in the MD-530 helicopter strike.
The military initially denied civilians were among the dead and wounded, but later blamed the Taliban for shooting them.
But the U.N.’s Afghanistan mission questioned in its May 7 report “the extent to which the Government undertook steps and concrete measures to prevent civilian casualties, in accordance with its Civilian Casualty Mitigation Policy.”
“A key finding of this report is that the Government used rockets and heavy machine-gun fire on a religious gathering, resulting in high numbers of child casualties,” the UNAMA report said.
Additionally, the mission noted that its verification process requires confirmation by three independent sources, and the final death toll may be much higher than the numbers it was able to confirm. Ghani has appointed a commission to investigate reports of civilian casualties.