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Pakistani airstrike leaves 47 civilians dead, 22 injured in Afghanistan’s Khost and Kunar provinces

At least 47 people were killed and 22 injured in two airstrikes by Pakistani forces along the border with Afghanistan on 16 April 2022. The victims were mainly women and children, from families who immigrated from the neighbouring Pakistani region of Waziristan several years ago.

This marks the highest casualty incident from explosive weapon use recorded by AOAV in Afghanistan so far in 2022.

Saturday’s attacks (16 April 2022) took place in the Khost and Kunar provinces between 2am and 3am local time, the time at which most people prepare their pre-dawn meal during Ramadan. The Pakistani air force targeted residential areas in four villages in Khost, leaving at least 41 civilians dead and injuring a further 22. The strikes in the Kunar province claimed six civilian lives. Several districts in Kunar had already been under heavy artillery shelling for three days.

Tensions have been rising along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the Taliban took power last year, and in January of 2022, a Pakistani rocket strike in the Kunar region resulted in the death of a 12-year old boy. The Pakistani government has so far not commented on Saturday’s attacks, but the airstrikes came after Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, warned that there would be retaliation for the seven soldiers killed in an ambush in the country’s North Waziristan tribal region. On Sunday, the foreign ministry in Islamabad called on the Taliban authorities to take “stern actions” against armed fighters launching attacks against Pakistan from Afghan soil, claiming that “terrorists are using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out activities inside Pakistan.” Kabul has denied harbouring militants.

So far in 2022, AOAV has recorded 14 incidences of explosive weapons use in Afghanistan, causing a total of 181 civilian casualties (106 injured and 75 killed). The pre-dawn attacks on 16 April account for 62% of those deaths and 21% of injuries, or 38% of the total casualties for Afghanistan so far this year.

Of the 14 incidences, five have resulted in child casualties, with six confirmed child casualties reported in total. Two incidences resulted in the death of women, with four confirmed female casualties in total. It is likely that the Pakistani airstrikes caused significant loss of life or injury amongst women and children, but the exact figures have not yet been reported.

Last year, 2021, Afghanistan was the worst affected country in terms of civilian casualties of explosive weapons. 3,051 civilians became casualties of explosive weapon use in 2021, 1,005 of whom were killed and 2,046 injured. Civilians accounted for 55% of the total 5,585 casualties recorded in Afghanistan. When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, civilians accounted for 85% (2,819) of the casualties (3,311).

Though worst-affected, civilian casualties in Afghanistan declined by 12% in 2021 compared to 2020.

For more AOAV data on explosive violence in Afghanistan, see our Explosive Violence Monitor 2021, and hotspot page focussing on Afghanistan.