Six Afghan children killed in fighting

GHAZNI, Afghanistan: As many as six children were killed in fighting near the central Afghan city of Ghazni on Friday but there were conflicting accounts of how they died, with officials blaming the Taliban and others saying they died in an air strike by Afghan forces.

Following high-profile attacks on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a compound of the Save the Children aid group in Jalalabad in recent days, the violence in Ghazni highlighted the daily toll on Afghan civilians across the country.

Provincial officials said a Taliban mortar attack struck the village while the children were outside, killing the six and wounding two.

“Children were playing in the yard of a house when the Taliban fired mortars. One hit the ground and killed six children and wounded two,” Ghazni police chief Mohammad Zaman told reporters.

Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the defense ministry, also blamed Taliban for the attack: “We can say clearly that it was a rocket by the enemy forces.” he said.

“The person who fired the rockets was killed by our forces and we seized his rocket.”

However local people said the children died in an air strike by Afghan security forces, which have been conducting an increasing number of air operations as their fledgling air force has grown over the past year.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the air strike had killed seven civilians, wounded six and destroyed four houses.

A defense ministry official in Kabul said three civilians had been killed in an air strike near Ghazni but it was not clear whether they were children.

According to the latest report from the United Nations, 2,640 civilians were killed and 5,379 wounded between January and September last year, with more than a third killed in ground engagements. Armed conflict killed 689 children and wounded another 1,791 during the period.