Afghanistan: Reports of war crimes amid armed conflict

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Authorities in Afghanistan say they are investigating reports of war crimes involving fighters in the country’s conflict.

The reports come a day after a crackdown on Daesh insurgents in the northern province of Kunduz triggered clashes in which 31 civilians were killed.

Afghan state television says one man has been arrested and two Taliban fighters surrendered in the raid on a base.

But the Taliban denied they were at the base, and said people had been killed by government airstrikes.

The first official public acknowledgement of summary killings has come from the Ministry of Interior.

“The Ministry of Interior expresses deep concern regarding the reports of the use of primitive practices such as murder, executions, mutilation, gang rape and mutilation of corpses,” spokesman Najib Danish said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence has said the UK expects all Afghan forces to do all they can to prevent “excessive use of force”.

Mr Danish also told AFP news agency that alleged killings of civilians by government forces must be investigated.

“The casualties of the various operations, including air support conducted by the Government Forces, the ISAF command centre, the Taliban and other forces, have added to the losses endured by Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Danish’s comments come as images circulate on social media showing the charred remains of the alleged victims of the Kunduz bombing, including young children whose bodies are left hanging by limbs.

The mass shooting of a TV reporter who was covering an assault on an IS enforcement unit is also under investigation.

Earlier this month, the video was shown on state television.

The station identified the reporter as 14-year-old Qais Zargar.

The BBC was unable to reach his family or his employers for a comment.

Mr Denmark told the BBC the BBC had been given the footage “in error”.

He also said the Afghan authorities had launched an investigation, and said all reports of suspected summary killings of civilians must be investigated.

But the treatment of Mr Zargar’s body has sparked controversy on social media.

Mr Zargar was shot in the head and face, according to the video. The Western-backed Afghan security forces and several IS fighters are shown fleeing the scene, and being pursued by Mr Zargar’s colleagues.

In one shot, he appears to stumble and fall.

The footage does not appear to have been taken by a security camera.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Afghan media reported that Zargar was shot by an unidentified gunman on a motorbike.

The head of the Kabul police, Sher Mohammed Durrani, said the youngster was actually a journalist for a private TV station, without naming him.

The Kabul-based police chief said the attack occurred in the west of the city, and that Zargar “attacked the police officers after being invited by the Taliban to cover their side of the story”.

Mr Zargar reportedly had a licence from the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission to shoot video and take pictures.

Also this month, two journalists were killed after a Nato bomb hit a wedding convoy on the outskirts of the western city of Herat.

The attack caused most of the 63 to be killed, and left several dozen others injured. The Taliban said it carried out the suicide attack, though Nato said it was an “intentional friendly fire”.

Both the incident in Kunduz and the massacre in Herat are being investigated by Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani.

Meanwhile, clashes between Taliban and government forces in the northern province have intensified.

According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, the aerial attack by the US led coalition fighter aircraft was also carried out by Afghan forces.

The Afghan Ministry of Defence has said the US denied asking for permission to bomb, and said its aircraft had shot at insurgent fighters advancing on Afghan forces from the ground.

The ministry said the “terrorist” fighters had brought “unnecessary casualties on the military forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.

The US reported a slightly different version of events, telling AFP news agency the aircraft “assessed through machine-vision imagery and aircraft overhead and identified more than 100 Taliban fighters outside an Afghan government base… who entered the vicinity of the base in order to conduct an attack”.

It added that coalition troops had no advance warning of the attack.

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