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    Thursday, 12 April 2018

    Pakistani students pray for 150 victims of airstrike in Kunduz

    Students from Pakistan’s religious seminaries have held a commemoration rally to pray for victims of an airstrike earlier this month in neighboring Afghanistan.

    About 400 students gathered for the demonstration in Islamabad on Wednesday. They said they decided to hold the prayer service after seeing reports that madrassa students were among those killed in the April 2 strike.
    Afghan officials say they targeted a Taliban training camp in the Dashti Archi district in northern Kunduz province.
    At least 150 civilians and 30 insurgents were reported killed. The Taliban claimed the strike hit a madrassa, or a religious school, during a graduation ceremony, killing dozens of civilians. 
    The students at the Islamabad gathering said they had no direct knowledge of the Kunduz strike and only learned about it from media reports.An air attack by Afghan forces on a gathering at a religious school in a Taliban stronghold has caused multiple casualties, including civilians, Afghan officials and witnesses said.
    Top Taliban commanders were gathered inside the madrasa, where a graduation ceremony was under way for students at the time of the attack on Monday in the northeastern province of Kunduz, a security source told AFP news agency. 
    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, who were taken to the regional hospital in the provincial capital Kunduz, Dr Naim Mangal told AFP.
    Relatives of the wounded told an AFP photographer at the hospital that the attack happened during a graduation ceremony at the madrasa 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 madrasa was inside the mosque or if it was a separate building.
    Ishaq said civilians, students and some Taliban members, who had been invited to attend the ceremony, were inside the mosque at the time of the attack. There were three air attacks 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 madrasa, but denied its fighters 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 air attacks. A senior local official said "around 150" people had been killed and wounded in the air raid. 
    Afghan officials often give conflicting casualty figures after an attack.
    Obtaining detailed information is difficult because the Taliban controls the area. Most telecommunication services are cut from late afternoon on Taliban orders, locals say.
    A spokesman for US Forces said they were not involved in Monday's air attack.
    Afghanistan's fledgling air force has accelerated bombardments in recent months as the Americans beef up the country's aerial capability with more aircraft and better weapons.
    Earlier this month, the Afghan Air Force dropped its first laser-guided bomb on a Taliban compound in the western province of Farah, where the armed group has gone on the offensive.
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