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Eight Afghan children killed playing with unexploded mortar shell

More than 3,000 children were killed or wounded in 2017, accounting for one-third of total civilian casualties.

Eight children, including four siblings, were killed in Afghanistan when a mortar round they were playing with exploded, adding to the ever-growing civilian death toll in the 17-year war.

Another six children were wounded in the blast on Friday, including two who lost limbs and were in critical condition in a hospital in the northwestern province of Faryab.

All the children were aged between five and 12, relatives said on Saturday.

"They found an unexploded mortar shell and brought it near our house," Shukrullah, an uncle of four of the children killed, told AFP news agency.

"They didn't know what it was and were trying to open it when it suddenly exploded."

Mohammad Alam, a cousin of four of the children, said he heard a "big explosion".

"I rushed to the site and saw the kids covered in blood," Alam said from the hospital. "They had found an unexploded shell and were playing with it when it went off."

Officials were quick to blame the explosion on the Taliban, which last week captured Koh-e-Sayad, the village where the children lived.

Thousands of killed kids

Children are often killed or maimed by explosive devices left over from decades of conflict, carelessly discarded, or deliberately planted.

Civilians, including children, have borne the brunt of the conflict that began with the US-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.

UN figures show that 3,179 children were killed or wounded in 2017, accounting for almost one-third of the total civilian casualties for the year.

Improvised explosive devices, such as remotely detonated or pressure-plate bombs, killed or wounded 545 children.

Unexploded ordnance claimed the lives of 142 children and wounded 376 in the same period.

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