UN investigates Afghan religious seminary attack

Human rights team are on ground establishing facts, UN mission says about Afghan military’s bombing of seminary in Kunduz
KABUL, Afghanistan: The UN mission in Afghanistan on Tuesday announced it was investigating the bombing of a religious seminary by the Afghan military in northern Kunduz province Monday that reportedly left dozens of civilians dead.
While the Afghan officials insist the air raid only killed suspected militants, the Taliban armed group and local media outlets said over 100 civilians were killed in the deadly air raid on the religious seminary, which was adjacent to a mosque, in Taliban-controlled area of Dasht-e-Archi district.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called the reports of serious harm to civilians by an airstrike in Kunduz as “disturbing”.
“Human rights team on ground establishing facts. All parties reminded of obligations to protect civilians from impact of armed conflict,” the UNAMA said in a brief statement as the incident sent shockwaves across the country.
In a statement, the military on Monday said an alleged gathering of the Taliban’s “Quetta Shura” — one of the Taliban’s main Pakistan-based committee — had been hit during an air raid this morning in Dasht-e-Archi district.
“In the air raids by the Afghan Air Force at around 11 a.m. [0630 GMT], 15 Taliban terrorists, including member of the Quetta Shura, Mawlawi Baryal, were killed and 10 others wounded,” the statement had said.
However, the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, contradicted the government claim, tweeting that at least 150 people, including religious scholars and children had been killed in the raid on Darul Uloom Hashimya.
Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Patricia Gossman told Anadolu Agency the reports about civilian casualties were “very troubling”.
An attack targeting a crowded religious school raises clear concerns about disproportionate loss of civilian life, Gossman said.
“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing as part of the escalation in the air campaign against the Taliban is that the Afghan forces are not always taking the precautions they should to minimize harm to civilians, especially in situations like Dasht-e Archi which has seen intense fighting over the past weeks,” she said.
Backed by American military’s airpower, the Afghan forces have launched an 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.
Kunduz remains one of the strongest bastions for the Taliban. Provincial capital of the province twice briefly fell to the Taliban in the past three years.–AA

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