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Watchdog tells conflicting parties: Avoid targeting civilians

AT-KABUL: There has been huge hullaballoo over civilian casualties in a gathering targeted by a military airstrike in northern Kunduz province–which officials reported to have killed 18 Taliban chieftains, while an ensuring sporadic gunfire by panicked militants kills dozens of civilians.

Meanwhile, police chief of Dasht-e-Archi, where the strike turned out, said 87 people including the Taliban commanders and civilians had been killed during and after airstrikes. Key Taliban chieftain had gathered to observe a graduation ritual of students in a religious madrasa, in which civilians had presence too.

On Wednesday, Civilian Protection Advocacy Group (CPAG) urged the government and international partners not to target enemies in places where civilians are likely to be harmed or killed.

Some members of the group in a press briefing said that though the exact civilian casualties are not clear, but according to provincial council members and local people, 50 civilians have been killed.

The advocacy cluster also called on the armed government opposition to avoid participating in gatherings with massive civilian populations. “The opposition must take into account the protection and safety of the civilians.”

The CPAG have strappingly called on the civilians to refrain from participating in such gatherings that fatal outcome is possible.

However, the Ministry of Defense, Spokesperson Gen. Radmanish said on Tuesday over 18 Taliban chieftains for northeastern Afghanistan were killed and 12 more sustained critical injuries during the Monday airstrike in Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province.

The airstrike was carried out after obtaining critical intelligence information substantiated with GPS-captured photos pinpointing the exact coordinates of a gathering of key Taliban chieftains at a religious school observing a ritual, he reckoned, insisting that the strikes targeted the location where the Taliban leaders gathered, and “any civilian casualties have been a result of sporadic gunfire by panicked Taliban militants at people right after the airstrike.”

There are several counts of casualties. A tribal chieftain from the area of Haji Naim told Afghanistan Times that around 100 civilians including 57 children were killed and wounded in the strikes.

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