United States airstrikes in Afghanistan are said to kill 16 civilians

Claudine Rigal
Août 12, 2017

Local security officials say Afghan forces, backed by USA airpower, are conducting counterterrorism operations against Islamic State militants in the district, where Thursday's airstrikes occurred.

The district chief, Saaz Wali, told VOA eight of the victims belonged to the same family and were in a vehicle when a US airstrike hit them.

The Pentagon, for its part, confirmed the attack, but insisted that everyone killed was an "extremist fighter", and that they believed the people piling their meager possessions into the vehicles were actually "loading weapons". Women and children were among the victims. In June، at least three Afghan border police officers were killed in U.S. airstrikes in Helmand province. The airstrike targeted vehicles the victims were traveling in, he added.

But United States Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement the air strike "killed a number of militants".

Of the roughly 13,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan only the United States carries out airstrikes. They have been regularly targeting Islamic State insurgents who control several districts in restive Nangarhar.

He also ruled out the possibility of any collateral damage, saying the strike was conducted in the middle of open terrain and there was "zero chance" of civilian casualties. "But, we have appointed a delegation to investigate if civilians are killed", he told AFP.

Claims of civilian deaths from airstrikes have occurred this year in Kunduz in the north and in Helmand province in the south, often as a result of fighting in areas where it can be hard to distinguish insurgents from civilians.

The armed conflict in Afghanistan has killed more than 1,700 civilians and wounded many more since the beginning of 2017, according to United Nations documentation of civilian casualties. As the tempo of US airstrikes continues at a rapid pace, there have been a number of such incidents in recent months. Civilian deaths are at an all-time high in Afghanistan.

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