Afghan president promises inquiry into attack near mosque

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani promised an investigation on Saturday into a mortar attack by government troops a day earlier that killed at least eight civilians and wounded two others near a mosque in a district south of Kabul.

Ghani expressed his condolences and said a ministry of defence team would investigate the incident which he said took place during an operation in the Sayedabad district of Maidan Wardak province, an area with a heavy Taliban presence.

Local officials said army mortar bombs fell near a mosque, killing eight civilians and wounding two others, while the Taliban said 10 people gathered around a fire in front of the mosque were killed and eight wounded in the attack.

According to United Nations figures, nearly 5,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of the year, the highest number since the UN began keeping records in 2009, as fighting has intensified across the country.

In its report in August, the UN said most casualties were caused by the Taliban but incidents like the one in Wardak allow the insurgents to point the finger at government troops who have taken over the fighting since NATO forces ended their combat mission last year.

"The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns this crime of the Kabul regime and views it as a clear illustration of their brutality and merciless nature towards the common people," the movement said in a statement.