Seven Afghan Children Killed in U.S.-led Airstrike

Seven children were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike targeting suspected al-Qaida militants in eastern Afghanistan, a coalition statement said Monday, while police said they had detained a suspect in a deadly suicide bombing over the weekend.

In an operation backed by Afghan troops, jets on Sunday targeted a compound that also contained a mosque and an Islamic school in the Zarghun Shah district of Paktika province.

Initial reports said seven children at the madrassa school and "several militants" were killed. Two militants were also detained, the statement said.

Coalition troops had "surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications there were children inside the building," said Maj. Chris Belcher, a coalition spokesman. He accused the militants of not letting the children leave the compound that was targeted.

"If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that airstrike would have occurred," said Sgt. 1st Class Dean Welch, another coalition spokesman.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it has sent a team with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to investigate the incident.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for foreign troops to do more to prevent civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, police detained a suspect in a bus bombing Sunday in Kabul that killed at least 35 people and wounded 52 others. The suspect was caught filming the aftermath of the deadly suicide blast, said Ali Shah Paktiawal, Kabul police director of criminal investigation.

The man, whose name and nationality were not disclosed, had pictures of the slain Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah in his phone, as well as text messages from a foreign country, Paktiawal said.

Sunday's enormous blast, which raised the specter of an increase in Iraq-style bombings with heavy casualties, was at least the fourth attack against a bus carrying Afghan police or army soldiers in Kabul in the last year. The bomb sheared off the bus' metal sidings and roof, leaving a charred frame.

The explosion was the fifth suicide attack in Afghanistan in three days, part of a sharp spike in violence around the country.

Condemning the Kabul attack, Karzai said the "enemies of Afghanistan" were trying to stop the development of Afghan security forces, a key component in the U.S.-NATO strategy of

handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan government one day, allowing Western forces to leave.

From The Associated Press

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