Dozens killed by Afghan air strikes in northern Kunduz

An Afghan resident is treated at a hospital following an airstrike in Kunduz on April 2, 2018. An Afghan airstrike on a religious school in a Taliban stronghold on April 2 caused multiple casualties, including civilians, an Afghan security source and witnesses said. / AFP / Bashir KHAN SAFI
Updated 03 April 2018
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Dozens killed by Afghan air strikes in northern Kunduz

  • Defense Ministry chief spokesman General Mohammad Radmanesh said the army’s helicopters targeted a “concentration Taliban site”.
  • The Taliban also said a madrassa was hit, and that all the victims were civilians.
KABUL: Dozens of people were killed on Monday in a series of air strikes by the Afghan air force in a district of northern Kunduz province.
Several politicians claimed a madrassa was hit during a graduation ceremony for Islamic students.
Defense Ministry chief spokesman General Mohammad Radmanesh said the army’s helicopters targeted a “concentration Taliban site” in Dasht-e-Archi because militants planned to unleash attacks on government institutions in the district, which has been largely controlled by insurgents for several years.
The attacks were carried out at midday local time, without any involvement by the US-led coalition, he said, adding that 21 Taliban members died in the assault, which left dozens wounded.
Radmanesh denied reports from several senators and two provincial officials that a madrassa was targeted.
The lawmakers said several dozen people were killed, while an unconfirmed report from the province put the total number of dead and wounded at more than 150. One senator, Abdullah Qarloq, said civilians were among the victims, along with Taliban militants.
The Taliban also said a madrassa was hit, and that all the victims were civilians.
“Those responsible for killing civilians and insulting religion will be brought to justice,” said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an email to Arab News.
A senior government official in Kabul denied that a religious school had been hit, and said all of the casualties were militants.
However, Patricia Gossman, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, fears that many of those killed might have been civilians.
“Under laws of war, targeted killings must be carried out in compliance with principle of proportionality,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is latest incident in which airstrikes aimed at killing insurgent leaders may have disproportionately killed civilians.”
The attack comes a week after allegations that a group of civilian students in a seminary were killed in a similar air strike in western Farah province by an Afghan air force attack, and days after reports of civilian casualties in northeastern Badakhshan province.
Since assuming power over three years ago, President Ashraf Ghani’s government has mostly remained silent about civilian deaths in Afghanistan caused by Afghan government forces and the US-led coalition.
More than 40 patients and hospital staff were killed in sustained US air strikes on a French-run hospital in 2015 after the Taliban briefly captured Kunduz city.


Chinese man accused of spying, helping recruit US engineers

In this Aug. 26, 2013 file photo, Chicago Police patrol the neighborhood in Chicago. (AP)
Updated 38 min 9 sec ago
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Chinese man accused of spying, helping recruit US engineers

  • A 17-page criminal complaint says Ji came to the US in 2013 on a student visa to study engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago

CHICAGO: A Chinese citizen living in Chicago was arrested Tuesday for allegedly spying, including by helping with the recruitment of US engineers, defense contractors and scientists for intelligence services in China, federal prosecutors said.
Ji Chaoqun, 27, is charged with one count of knowingly acting in the US as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification of the attorney general, a statement from the US attorney’s office in Chicago said. He allegedly worked at the direction of high-ranking intelligence officials with the People’s Republic of China and was given the task of providing information about eight people for possible recruitment.
Ji made an initial appearance in federal court in downtown Chicago, looking tired and fidgeting as he stood before US Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason. Ji huddled with a Chinese-language interpreter for much of the 15-minute hearing. But when the judge asked if he understood his rights, Ji lifted his head and said in English, “I understand.”
Assistant US Attorney Shoba Pillay said at the hearing that Ji faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted on the one count.
Through a lawyer, Laura Hoey, Ji also asked that the Chinese consulate be notified about his arrest. Judge Mason ordered that Ji remain in custody for now, and US Marshal’s agents handcuffed him and led him away. No additional hearings were immediately set.
A 17-page criminal complaint says Ji came to the US in 2013 on a student visa to study engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He enlisted in the US Army Reserves in 2016 under a program that allows some immigrants living in the country legally to serve in the military if their skills could be vital to US interests.
There was no answer at a number for the Chinese consulate in Chicago on Tuesday evening.