Distraught relatives of children killed in a government air raid targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province have rejected official claims that no civilians were killed in the attack as “dishonest”.
A religious school in the Dasht-e-Archi district of the northern province was hit late on Monday.
The Afghan government said the raids targeted a Taliban gathering, but witnesses and local officials maintained that at the time of the attack, a Dastaar Bandi ceremony – an event celebrating young men completing the memorisation of the Quran – was taking place at the school.
There are conflicting reports over the number of people killed in the attack, and under which circumstances.
A district official said a total of 70 people – including children and top Taliban commanders – were killed, while witnesses put the death toll to at least 100. Nematullah Temori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said seven civilians were killed in the attack.
But General Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for the defence ministry, said that according to their intelligence, no civilians were present at the time of the air raid.
He told Al Jazeera that the air raid targeted a Taliban gathering where members of the group were discussing plans to capture Kunduz city.
“The Taliban were gathered in a room planning their next move to take over Kunduz city.
“We have surveillance footage of armed men and pictures of Taliban leaders in the area that was attacked,” he said, adding that 18 Taliban commanders were killed in the raid.