Civilians, including children, ‘killed in Afghan forces strike’

At least 20 Afghan civilians, including 12 children, were killed in an airstrike targeting a Taliban commander in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar, local officials said.

Friday’s strike, against a local Taliban commander named Sharif Mawiya, was the latest in a series of operations targeting senior field commanders.

Several Taliban commanders have been killed since the beginning of December by Afghan forces, backed by US advisers and air power but the tactic has also increased the risk of civilian casualties.

Abdul Latif Fazly, a member of the provincial council, said eight women and 12 children were killed and more than 15 civilians wounded in the incident late on Friday.

Kunar governor Abdul Satar Mirzakwal said an operation by Afghan forces in Sheltan district killed 38 Taliban and al-Qaeda members, including four foreign nationals, and wounded 12 more.

He said the operation targeted Sharif Mawiya, a commander believed to be a facilitator with Al Qaeda group.

He said an unknown number of civilians were hit in the strike but had no casualty details.

“We know that a number of civilians, including women and children have been killed but we are sending a fact-finding team,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said it had not carried out any airstrikes in Kunar at the time of the incident. No comment was immediately available from the defence ministry.

The number of Afghan civilians killed in US and Afghan airstrikes has risen sharply this year as Western-backed forces have stepped up aerial operations with the aim of forcing the Taliban to agree to peace talks.

According to United Nations figures, 313 civilians were killed and 336 wounded in airstrikes by US and Afghan forces in the nine months to the end of September, a 39 per cent increase from the same period in 2017.

Airstrike casualties accounted for eight percent of the total 8,050 civilian casualties during the period. The overall number of civilian casualties was roughly stable.

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