Who Dropped the Bombs That Killed 47 People, Mostly Women and Children, in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan claims its neighbour and ally Pakistan carried out the attack. But Pakistan has been silent on the airstrikes.

In the early hours of Saturday, as families were asleep, aircrafts dropped bombs in the Khost and Kunar provinces of eastern Afghanistan. Gut-wrenching images of children killed in the airstrikes were shared on Afghan TV channels and across social media. Afghan officials said 47 people, mostly women and children, were killed. 

The officials claimed that their neighbour and ally Pakistan carried out the airstrikes, and have warned of “enmity” if violent attacks persist. 

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombardment and attack that has taken place from the Pakistan side on the soil of Afghanistan,” Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told local press. 

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But it's been 5 days, and Pakistan’s military has been silent on the bombings. Pakistan’s diplomatic office said it was still “looking into” the allegations. 

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last year, its eastern border with Pakistan has been an increasing source of tension. Pakistan claims militants based in Afghanistan are carrying out attacks in Pakistan. The Taliban have denied giving refuge to armed groups attacking Pakistan. 

While the Pakistan military has been mum on the latest airstrikes, it said last week that it had lost nearly 100 soldiers in border attacks and had killed 128 armed fighters in the border region since January. On April 14, a day before the pre-dawn bombings, seven Pakistani soldiers were killed allegedly by militants in a border town in Pakistan. 

Analysts believe the airstrikes on Saturday were carried out in retaliation to that attack. If Pakistan did carry out the airstrikes, it would be viewed as a major escalation of military force, and Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have expressed grave concern.

“This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are using all options to prevent repetitions (of such attacks) and calling for our sovereignty to be respected,” the Taliban government spokesman said. “The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts, it will not be in the interest of any side. It will cause instability in the region.”

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Hundreds have since been protesting in border towns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan protesters have been chanting anti-Pakistan slogans, while across the border people chanted, “Stop killing innocent Waziristanis.” Many of those killed in the airstrikes were reportedly displaced from the Pakistani region of North Waziristan.

A protest against Pakistani airstrikes in Khost on April 16, 2022. Photo: AFP

On April 17, a day after the air raids, Pakistan’s foreign office urged Afghan authorities to “secure Pak-Afghan Border region and take stern actions against the individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan.” 

The Taliban have also expressed their frustration at Pakistan’s ongoing construction of a fence along the two countries’ 1,680-mile shared border. For decades, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was porous and served as a stronghold for the Pakistani Taliban, an outlawed militant group in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban are separate entities. Pakistan has diplomatic relations with the Afghan Taliban but considers the Pakistani Taliban an enemy of the state, even though both groups share similar religious and political ideologies.   

And there appears to be no let-up in violence in Afghanistan. On April 19, six people including children were killed and 11 wounded in bombings targeting a boys’ school in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood. 

The neighbourhood is home to Afghanistan’s Shia-Hazara community, a religious and ethnic minority, and has frequently been attacked by the militant group Islamic State. In October of 2020, the group claimed a suicide attack on an educational centre in Dasht-e-Barchi that killed 24 people including students.

“Children in Afghanistan have endured years of violence.” Save the Children’s Afghanistan country director Chris Nyamandi said in a press statement. “The killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools are never acceptable and are prohibited under international law.”

Follow Rimal Farrukh on Twitter.

Tagged:

extremism, Πακιστάν, Taliban, bombings, south asia, air strikes, Hazaras, worldnews

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