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Some of the vandalism discovered in Kurapaty

MINSK -- The Investigative Committee of Belarus has launched a probe into the vandalizing of a memorial site at Kurapaty, a wooded area on the outskirts of the capital, Minsk, where at least 30,000 people were killed and buried by Soviet authorities in 1930s and 1940s.

On March 23, activists in Minsk discovered that at least two memorial stones at the site, including one honoring Jewish victims of the Soviet repression, were covered with anti-Semitic and other insulting inscriptions made with blue paint.

The discovery came after, 14 big crosses at the memorial site were discovered felled by unknown individuals on March 20.

The Investigative Committee said on March 25 that it had begun investigating the incidents at the site, which was used as an execution place by the Soviet NKVD secret police.

Since January 1, a memorial bench at the site known as "Clinton's bench," which was presented by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1994, has been damaged twice.

Between 600,000 and 1.5 million people fell victim to Soviet leader Josef Stalin's repressions in Belarus, according to various estimates.

Richard Bennett, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (file photo)

Thirteen civilians were killed, mostly children, in an air strike by "international forces" near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz last week, according to preliminary findings of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

"The mission expresses serious concern that initial fact-finding indicates that 10 of those killed were children, part of the same extended famil...displaced by fighting elsewhere in the country," UNAMA said in a statement on March 25.

It said that three more civilians were apparently wounded in the incident, which occurred in the Telawka neighborhood close to Kunduz city on the night of March 22-23, during “operations conducted by pro-government forces against Taliban in the area.”

“Work is ongoing to verify all civilian casualties that occurred during military operations that were conducted around the time of the air strike,” the statement said.

A spokeswoman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said on March 24 that U.S. forces had carried out an air strike in the area, but she said the mission had not confirmed it had caused civilian casualties.

Sergeant Debra Richardson said the mission aims to prevent civilian casualties but noted that Taliban militants intentionally hide among civilians.

The war in Afghanistan killed more civilians in 2018 than at any time since records have been kept, UNAMA said in a February report, blaming the increase on unprecedented suicide bombings by militant groups and air strikes carried out by U.S.-led forces.

It said that the conflict killed 3,804 civilians and wounded another 7,189 in 2018, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

The civilian death toll is the highest number since UNAMA began tallying figures in 2009.


With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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