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Local Officials, Kabul Clash Over Whether Children Were Killed In Mosque Air Strike

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An Afghan boy who was allegedly injured in an airstrike on an Islamic seminary receives medical treatment at a hospital in Takhar on October 22.

Officials in the northern Afghan province of Takhar say 12 children were killed in an air strike on a mosque, but the government in Kabul disputes the account, claiming all those killed were Taliban fighters.

The strike occurred on October 21 in Baharak district, some 15 kilometers from the regional capital, Taloqan, where Taliban fighters had killed dozens of Afghan security forces in the early morning, provincial councilor Mohammad Azam Afzali said.

The provincial governor spokesman also confirmed the report.

A warplane bombed the mosque after receiving information that Taliban militants who were involved in the hours-before bloody attack on security forces were hiding there, Afzali added.

The Defense Ministry confirmed the strike was carried out by the Afghan air force but denied civilians had died.

"Twelve Taliban, including several of their commanders, were killed," it said.

An investigation team was appointed to "assess allegations about civilian casualties resulting from this attack,” the ministry said.

The target of the strike was said to be a religious school, or madrasah, attached to the mosque.

Provincial police spokesman Khalil Aseer said 14 people were also wounded in the strike.

Health officials said a hospital close to the site of the air strike had received at least eight people who were wounded in the incident.

The imam of the mosque, Abdul Awal, who was among those wounded, said that only he and children were in the mosque at the time of the strike.

Afghanistan's Vice President Amrullah Saleh took to Facebook to deny news that children had died in the mosque as "baseless,” and warned those spreading "rumors" about the air strike with legal action.

Earlier on October 22, Takhar’s provincial deputy police chief and at least 43 other Afghan security forces were killed in clashes with the Taliban in Baharak, according to officials.

The Taliban attacked security forces in the Masjid-e-Safid village of Baharak, according to local officials.

The Taliban was said to have suffered heavy casualties in the clashes but there is no exact information.

Violence in Afghanistan continues despite ongoing peace talks between the representatives of the government and the militants in Qatar that kicked off last month.

The Taliban so far has refused to accept a cease-fire.

A Taliban assault by the militants in the southern province of Helmand forced nearly 40,000 civilians to flee their homes this month, disrupted telecommunications services, and closed the highway between Kandahar and Helmand, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), civilian populations continue to bear the brunt of Afghanistan's war with at least 1,282 deaths in the first six months of the year.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, the BBC, and TOLOnews
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