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Women and children among 28 dead as rocket hits wedding party

WARNING: Some people may find the images in this post distressing.

WARNING: This article contains graphic images of children killed in the blast.

AT LEAST 28 people, many of them women and children, were killed when rockets fired by Afghan army soldiers hit a wedding party in southern Afghanistan yesterday.

A further 51 people are said to have been injured in the strike.

The head of the army in southern Helmand province, where the incident happened, said investigations were focusing on whether the house was purposefully targeted by soldiers in checkpoints at least three kilometers (1.8 miles) away.

General Sultan Mahmoud said early investigations indicated that artillery had been fired in the direction of the house from both north and south.

“We are seeing no evidence that the Taliban can fire from that distance, and as the Taliban positions were only one kilometer from the checkpoint, why was it necessary to use artillery that can travel so far,” Mahmoud said.

Afghanistan Relatives surround the dead bodies of Afghan children after the rocket strike. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Afghanistan Source: AP/Press Association Images

The incident happened in the volatile Sangin district while guests were awaiting the arrival of the bride at the home of her cousin Abdul Haleem in Sarwankhala.

The tribal leader of Sarwankhalain, Taj Mohammad, presented 35 bodies to provincial Governor Mohammad Naeem, but deputy police chief Bacha Gull said he could only confirm that 28 people were killed.

Looking for his mother

Abdullah Jan (12) said he still doesn’t know where his mother is after being knocked unconscious while running to welcome the bride and waking up hours later in the hospital.

We were ready to go to sleep when my auntie came and said the bride had arrived. My mother went out to see the bride and I was running after her, toward the door when I heard the sound of blast and some bright flash like a fire hit me.

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Both his legs were broken and he suffered burns to his belly.

“Then I couldn’t see anything. I heard people shouting and after that I didn’t know what happened. The next time I opened my eyes I was here,” he said.

Sangin, in the poppy-producing Helmand River valley, has been the scene of fighting between government forces and Taliban for the past six months, since US forces departed as part of the transition to Afghan sovereignty.

The international mission to rid Afghanistan of insurgents under the leadership of the United States and NATO officially ended yesterday. Afghanistan takes full responsibility for its own affairs from today.

Afghanistan Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, former President Hamid Karzai, center, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, right, attend a ceremony marking the completion of security transition to Afghan security forces in Kabul. Source: AP/Press Association Images

President Ashraf Ghani marked the country’s transition to full sovereignty after the formal end of the 13-year international military mission in a televised address. He called on citizens to support their security forces in the interests of building a strong and peaceful country.

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