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Afghan Air Strikes Target Taliban Militants, But Civilians Also Reported Killed

Afghan police officers keep watch at their forward base in Kunduz (file photo).
Afghan police officers keep watch at their forward base in Kunduz (file photo).

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry says more than 30 Taliban militants have been killed in air strikes in the country’s north, although provincial officials said civilians were also among the dead.

The ministry said two air strikes targeted a Taliban base in the Khan Abad district of the northern province of Kunduz, a stronghold of the militants, on September 19.

Provincial officials said at least 12 civilians were killed and more than 10 wounded in the air strikes.

The deadly strikes came as Afghan and Taliban representatives hold peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar.

"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.

The ministry did not confirm any civilian deaths but said an investigation was under way.

In a statement, the Taliban denied its fighters were hit and said 23 civilians had been killed.

The air strikes came after overnight clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants in Khan Abad district.

Esmatullah Moradi, the spokesman for the governor of Kunduz, said three Afghan soldiers were killed in the clashes.

Kunduz city, the provincial capital, briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015 and has come under attack several times since then.

While the government controls the city, many rural areas of Kunduz Province are controlled or contested by the Taliban.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan, despite the start of the talks on September 12 that are aimed at reaching a political settlement to end the nearly 19-year-old war.

Roland Kobia, the European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan, said on September 18 that UN figures show violence in Afghanistan in the last five weeks has been the highest in the last five years.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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