KABUL – At least 13 civilians, mostly children, were killed in an airstrike by international troops in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province over the weekend, the United Nations mission in the war-torn country said on Monday.
Denouncing the civilian casualties, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a statement urged the authorities to probe the tragedy and take steps to ensure civilians are not harmed during military operations.
“An airstrike conducted by international military forces on the night of Friday to Saturday in Kunduz in support of pro-government forces on the ground killed 13 civilians and injured three more,” UNAMA said in the statement, detailing its preliminary findings.
The statement said that 10 of those dead are believed to be internally displaced minors from the same family.
The operation was carried out in Telawka, near the city of Kunduz, capital of the province by the same name, to provide support to pro-government forces which had launched an offensive against the Taliban in the area.
“UNAMA urges relevant authorities and parties involved in the airstrike to conduct their own enquiries into the incident and to take immediate steps to safeguard civilians from harm,” said the UN mission and urged for appropriate compensation to families of the victims.
The statement did not specify troops from which country carried out the airstrike.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan is limited to training Afghan forces, and only the United States provides air support as a part of its anti-terror operations.
On the other hand, Afghanistan army’s Special Operation Corps spokesperson Abdul Qayum Nuristan, in an interaction with EFE, denied any civilian casualties in Telawka, and claimed that the operation only resulted in the death of some 30 Taliban militants.
In 2018, the war in Afghanistan resulted in 3,804 civilian deaths, which is the highest since UNAMA began keeping such records in 2009, while the US and the Taliban have been negotiating a peace treaty to bring an end to the conflict that has gone on for 17 years.
The total number of civilian deaths caused by airstrikes last year was equal to that of 2014, 2015 and 2016 put together.
UNAMA recorded 1,015 civilian casualties (536 deaths and 479 injured) from aerial operations, which is the highest in a decade.
Of these, UNAMA attributed responsibility to international military forces for 632 civilian casualties (393 deaths and 239 injured) and to the Afghan Air Force for 304 civilian casualties (118 deaths and 186 injured).