At least 11 civilians were killed and more than 10 others wounded on Saturday in twin air strikes on a Taliban base in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunduz, a provincial official said.
The Taliban issued a statement accusing Afghan forces of killing at least 40 civilians in the air raids. The armed group did not comment on casualties among its fighters.
Defence ministry officials in Kabul, who said more than 40 Taliban fighters had been killed in the strikes, did not confirm any civilian casualties. They said an investigation was under way into the incident, which comes as the warring sides hold peace talks.
“The first strike hit the Taliban base but the second one caused civilian casualties as they had gathered at the bombed site,” said Fatima Aziz, a member of parliament who represents Kunduz.
“This morning, Taliban fighters attacked [Afghan army] positions in … Khan Abad district in Kunduz province,” the defence ministry said in a statement on Twitter.
The military “intercepted the attack in accordance with ‘active defence’ procedures”, the statement added, noting the dead included two commanders.
Aziz said 11 civilians were killed and five people were missing in the Khan Abad district of Kunduz province.
According to another witness, the air raids killed 12 civilians, including children, and wounded 18 others and Taliban fighters were also among the dead.
The attack came shortly before President Ashraf Ghani again called for a humanitarian ceasefire “to protect our people, prevent violence and terrorist incidents and to achieve a dignified and lasting peace”.
The Taliban has so far ignored such requests, though it has unilaterally called two short, separate truces this year in the run-up to peace talks.
Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban has continued even as representatives of the government and the armed group gathered in Qatar last week for historic peace talks aimed at ending about 20 years of war.
The negotiations are a result of a deal between the Taliban and the US signed in February, which also paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021.
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SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES