The Presidential Palace said on Tuesday afternoon President Ashraf Ghani has appointed a task team to probe Monday’s airstrike in Dasht-e-Archi amid conflicting reports of who the casualties were.
“To illustrate the nature of the harm sustained to civilians in the incident, President Ghani has assigned a commission” to carry out a “broad-based investigation and report back about findings of their investigation to the national security council within a week,” read the statement.
The task team will be headed up by Gen Khudaidad Hazara, the Inspector General of the National Security Council, and include presidential advisors Tahir Safai and Sayed Sulaiman Hamid. Also appointed to the task team are representatives from the ministry of defense, ministry of interior, National Directorate of Security, the attorney general’s office, and the independent directorate of local governance.
The statement, which acknowledged reports of civilian casualties, pointed out that the protection of civilian lives and property were among the fundamental responsibilities of the Afghan government.
This comes after the ministry of defense’s deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said on Tuesday afternoon the Afghan Air Force did not target civilians but had targeted a gathering of Taliban members and their commanders.
Residents in the area rejected these claims and said civilians at a madrassa were targeted.
Mohammadzai, 40, is a local farmer who sustained wounds in the airstrike.
“We were there for a graduation ceremony; planes came and bombarded us,” he said.
Eleven-year-old Nasrullah, who is studying the Quran at the madrassa, was also wounded in the airstrike.
“(Ordinary) people were there; I also study at the madrassa,” said Nasrullah.
“When the plane came from Kabul direction, then returned and came once again it dropped bombs on the children,” said Hajji Janan, a resident of Dasht-e-Archi.
Another resident from Dasht-e-Archi, Nooruddin, said: “Taliban weren’t at this gathering, most of them were children.”
The Taliban also rejected the MoD’s claims and said only civilians had been killed and wounded in the airstrike that was carried out at about 11am on Monday.
According to residents at least 50 people were killed and about 150 wounded in the airstrike.
Radmanish was however adamant the air force targeted a Taliban stronghold and killed at least 18 of the group’s commanders, including a Quetta Shura member.
The Taliban rejected these claims and said the airstrike had targeted a graduation ceremony at the madrassa where civilians had gathered.
The MoD also stated after it targeted the area, the Taliban opened fire on a helicopter and on civilians.
Residents again rejected these claims and said it was the helicopter that opened fire on them.
At his press conference on Tuesday, Radmanish showed photographs and aerial footage of the targeted area. He said the people photographed were Taliban leaders and fighters and had been filmed while coming together to plan an attack on army troops in the area.
He also said one Tajik national and an Uzbekistan national were among the Taliban commanders killed.
Kunduz hospital officials meanwhile said they are treating about 50 people, many of whom are in critical condition. Other officials said some casualties had been taken to Takhar province for treatment.
“We have admitted at least 50 wounded people from Dasht-e-Archi,” said head of Kunduz zonal hospital Naeem Mangal.
“Maybe two of the patients are in a stable condition, but the rest are in critical condition,” said Wahid Andishmand, a surgeon at Kunduz hospital.
Earlier in the day, UNAMA tweeted that it was investigating the incident.
UNAMA said it is “actively looking in to disturbing reports of serious harm to civilians yesterday from airstrike at DashtiArchi, Kunduz. Human Rights team on ground establishing facts.”