KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: An Afghan airstrike on a religious school in a Taliban stronghold on Monday caused multiple casualties, including civilians, Afghan officials and witnesses said.
Top Taliban commanders were gathered inside the madrassa where a graduation ceremony was under way for students at the time of the attack in the northeastern province of Kunduz, a security source told AFP.
He said an unknown number of civilians were among the casualties that also included senior Taliban commanders who were “planning for the next spring operations”.
“Several dead and at least 15 wounded”, including children, were taken to the regional hospital in the provincial capital Kunduz, Naim Mangal, a doctor, told AFP.
Relatives of the wounded told an AFP photographer at the hospital that the attack happened during a graduation ceremony at the madrassa in Dashte Archi district, which is controlled by the Taliban.
“When the planes came at around 12:00 pm some kids screamed ‘they will drop a bomb’ but the elders said ‘calm down, nothing is going to happen’, but then in an instant bombs hit the mosque,” Mohammad Ishaq told AFP.
It was not clear if the madrassa was inside the mosque or was a separate building.
Ishaq said civilians, students and some Taliban, who had been invited to attend the ceremony, were inside the mosque at the time of the attack. There were three airstrikes which “destroyed” the building, he added.
“I escaped unhurt but many people were killed and injured and I saw their bodies laying on the ground,” he said.
The Taliban issued a statement confirming the attack on the madrassa but denied militants had been meeting at the school.
Around 150 religious scholars and civilians — most of them children — were among the dead and wounded, the group added.
Several boys with their arms and legs bandaged were seen laying in beds and along the corridors of the hospital.
The security source said the Taliban had started meeting at madrassas in the hope of avoiding airstrikes.—AFP