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18 Jun, 2007 08:42

Air strike kills 7 children in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, a U.S-led coalition air strike killed seven children at a religious school in the east of the country. The coalition said a number of militants were also killed in the attack.

The operation backed by Afghan troops took place late on Sunday, in the South-Eastern Paktika province close to the border with Pakistan. The jets were said to be targeting a suspected al-Qaeda compound, which also contained a mosque and an Islamic school.

A statement from the international forces said: “Coalition forces confirmed the presence of nefarious activity occurring at the site before getting approval to conduct an air strike on the location.” They insist that surveillance on the compound showed no indications there were civilians inside. They condemn the cowardice of the militants saying they used the children as a shield.

The rapid release of the statement suggests they expect criticism with anger already increasing over the rising number of civilians killed in such foreign-led strikes.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly asked international forces to try to minimise casualties. Faced with resurgent Taliban attacks, growing insecurity and lack of economic development, Mr Karzai has warned that civilian deaths would have dangerous consequences for his government and troops.

Just hours before the air strike, a Taliban suicide bomber blew up a police bus during the morning rush hour in the heart of Kabul, killing more than 35 people.

Nearly 6,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 17 months and this latest bloodshed will be disconcerting news on the streets of Kabul.