Afghans bury civilians as U.N. probes air strike

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan/KABUL (Reuters) – Villagers in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz said they had buried dozens of victims of an air strike on a Taliban controlled district, in an incident the United Nations described as “disturbing.”

The event underlined the risks of greater use of air power under a new U.S. strategy announced last year to try to force the militant group to the negotiating table.

Sayed Jaan, a resident of the district of Dasht-i Archi, said he participated in two mass funerals of almost 40 people, adding that others followed Monday’s bombing by the Afghan Air Force (AAF).

He said the helicopter attack happened during a religious ceremony, called Dastaar Bandi, to mark young men completing the memorization of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

“There were two mass graves to bury the victims of the bombing and I took part in both burials. In one grave, 16, and in another, 21. Many were young children,” Sayed Jaan said on Tuesday.

“There were other burials and people were digging graves.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a tweet its investigators were in the area looking into “disturbing reports of serious harm” to civilians.

A senior official of Afghanistan’s defense ministry said the air attack happened during a meeting of militants, and killed at least 35 Taliban and wounded many more, but he denied reports that civilians were harmed. Two senior Taliban commanders were among those killed,…

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