The government of Afghanistan and the UN have strongly condemned a suicide attack in Uruzgan Province, central-southern Afghanistan, which killed 17 people, including 12 schoolchildren, on 10 July.
According to Afghan officials, about 30 people were also wounded in the explosion in the province's Dehrawod District.
"The attack was ostensibly targeted against a convoy of Dutch soldiers that was patrolling the area," Qasim Khan, the head of Uruzgan police, told IRIN.
According to Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior (MoI), a suicide attacker detonated his explosives at a local bazaar as schoolchildren made their way to school.
"This is a heinous crime against humanity and against innocent children who deserve compassion and sympathy," read a MoI press release.
Tom Koenigs, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy to Afghanistan, also condemned the attack and expressed his condolences to the victims' families and friends.
"In no culture, no country and no religion is there any excuse or justification for mass murders," read a statement released from Koenigs's office late on 10 July.
Local officials said all the wounded, who included six Dutch soldiers and several schoolchildren, have been taken to a military hospital in Tarinkot, the provincial capital of Uruzgan.
While so far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Afghan government, the UN and several other organizations have repeatedly accused Taliban insurgents - who were ousted in late 2001 by a US-led international coalition - of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in their fight against Afghan and international forces.
Children killed in other attacks
In another incident on 15 June, a suicide bomber killed 11 children, aged 8-15 in Tarinkot, the UN confirmed.
At least seven other children died, on the night of 17 June, when US war planes bombed an Islamic studies school in Zarghun Shah District of southeastern Paktika Province, a US military press release confirmed.
On 12 June, gunmen, suspected to be associated with Taliban insurgents, opened fire on schoolgirls in the central Logar Province killing two students, 12-year-old Shukria and 13-year-old Saadia, and wounding three others, Afghan officials reported.
Under international rules of war and the Geneva Conventions parties to an armed conflict should take all measures to ensure that civilians remain protected in their military engagements.