70 people dead and 30 injured as Afghan military helicopters bombed a religious gathering in the northern province of Kunduz on Monday
According to local toll, is much higher 150 confirmed killed mostly children
Nasruddin Saadi, The office of district governor of Dasht-e-Archi, said that the helicopters attacked a religious ceremony for which about 1,000 people had assembled in a mosque and surrounding fields around noon.
Mr. Saadi also said that the event was religious in nature and that the security forces had decided to attack because armed militants were in attendance.
According to Brig. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry the gathering was mot for religious purposes. “The Taliban and other insurgent groups were planning to attack Afghan forces, but their plan was discovered by our forces,” he said.“During the attack by our helicopters, 21 terrorists, including a Taliban commander, have been killed,” he added. “It isn’t a residential area, and only terrorists and the Taliban were active in the place. There wasn’t any civilian in the area.”
Nonetheless, witnesses said that children and other civilians were among the victims.
The district of Dasht-e-Archi is a Taliban stronghold that has often been the scene of heavy fighting. In May, an American drone strike in the district killed Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban “shadow governor” of Kunduz.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the death toll was far higher than the official figure and that no insurgents had been present at the gathering, which was strictly religious in nature. Many Taliban commanders are also mullahs.
“Bombing civilians and then calling them mujahedeen is a habit of the Americans and their slaves,” Mr. Mujahid said, adding that 150 people had died in the military strike. “Those responsible for killing civilians and insulting religion will be brought to justice.”