“Govt. forces’ misguided airstrikes taking civilian lives”


“What should I say and to whom should I refer?” said Abdul Raziq, the father of one of the martyred children, as tears rolled down his cheeks.  

BALKH: A mistaken airstrike in Hazara Qashlaq village of Taloqan district, the capital of northern Takhar Province, that killed and injured 30 children have fueled strident reactions from various quarters – in mass media and cyberspace alike.

According to local sources and the Afghanistan Independent Human rights Commissions (AIHRC), at least twelve children were killed and 18 others were wounded in the air raid conducted by Afghan security forces on Wednesday, October 22.

Although the local government and non-government sources confirmed the attack, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh has denied civilian and children’s casualties.

Meanwhile, the Takhar governor spokesman, Mohammad Jawad Hejri, confirmed the airstrike on the communal Hazara Qarlaq Masjid in Taloqan had inflicted casualties on civilians.

Hejri admitted the killing of 12 children and injuries to another 14 soon after the incident but later on Amrullah Saleh denied civilians’ deaths on his official Facebook page.

The erroneous blitz took place when the children were at the mosque studying religious and Islamic subjects from the Imam.

Government aircrafts martyred and injured children

The children who were wounded in the airstrike were taken to the Taloqan’s governmental hospital. Their families expressed grave concern over the unfortunate incident.

The minors injured in the attack included boys and girls between the ages of 5 to 15, who used to go to the communal mosque daily to pursue Islamic and religious education.

Khal Murad, a relative of an injured child, who came to the hospital, claimed children studying in the mosque were killed in the government forces’ airstrike.

“The plane struck the children, killing and injuring scores of them, including the prayer leader,” said Murad, concerned about the upsurge in insecurity in the Hazara Qarluq area.

“What should I say and to whom should I refer?” said Abdul Raziq, the father of one of the martyred children, as tears rolled down his cheeks.  

Raziq, whose face seemed full of agony for his son’s loss, grumbled that the government forces killed innocent people instead of the Taliban.

The government forces target civilians

Haji Hussein, an elder from Hazara Qarluq village who also visited the hospital, alleged government forces targeted residents instead of the Taliban.  

“Attacks by government forces and the Taliban always victimize civilians,” he said, adding that government forces must know and determine which area to target.

Mawlawi Abdul Awal, the Imam of the Hazara Qarluq village mosque who was injured in the incident, said “Many of the martyred and injured children were transported to hospitals when the attack took place.”

The killing of civilians is baseless

Despite local sources confirmed the fallacious incident, Amrullah Saleh refutes the news as unfounded.

On his official Facebook page, he wrote:

“The news of the killing of the children in the mosque in Takhar is untrue. Those who attacked our forces yesterday were eliminated. We have irrefutable evidence. I saw the proof myself. Those who circulated the false news about civilians would be legally dealt with.”

On the other hand, the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also confirmed the incident in a statement. “Last night, a mosque was bombed in the Hazara Qarluq area of ​​Taloqan while dozens of children were engaged in religious education.”

“As a result, 12 children were martyred and 18 others, including the Imam, were injured. The mosque was totally destroyed.”

Meanwhile, Mohammad Jawad Hijri, spokesman for the Takhar governor, acknowledged that children were killed in the incident, promising an investigation into the calamity. “Details would be shared with the public.”

The perpetrators of the attack on civilians must be identified

The Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) confirmed in a statement that the government airstrike was conducted while children were studying.

The statement said that a group of Taliban fighters were passing through the area at the same time as the attack, but did not mention whether the group received casualties.

However, the statement confirmed the death of 12 children and the wounding of 18 others, including the mosque’s cleric, and also emphasized the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

AIHRC called for ensuring justice, reparations, immediate cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire, and negotiated settlement to the Afghan mire.

It’s pertinent to mention that AIHRC has once again expressed concern over the increase in civilian casualties in the country’s unabated armed conflict among the warring parties.

This comes as Amrullah Saleh had also ordered the arrest of at least one person accused of speaking about the Wednesday strike in Takhar. He tweeted that “the person responsible for the spread of this venomous & fake news was arrested immediately.”

Saleh “is trying to silence those who reported a potentially unlawful airstrike that killed civilians, including many children,” said Human Rights Watch Associate Asia Director Patricia Gossman. She demanded an impartial investigation into the airstrike.

Meanwhile, US point-man for Afghanistan Reconciliation Khalilzad dubbed the attack as a terrible tragedy, saying “We offer our condolences to all the families of those killed and injured.”

He also emphasized that Afghanistan’s independent media and robust civil society should be allowed to document current events.