Afghanistan probes air strike that killed civilians

By: AFP      Published: 09:21 PM, 11 Jan, 2021
Afghanistan probes air strike that killed civilians

Afghan authorities said Monday they are investigating an air strike at the weekend which local officials say killed more than a dozen civilians, including children.

Provincial officials said 15 people died on Saturday night when a rocket struck a house in Khashrod district of Nimroz province.

"We are aware of claims of civilian casualties in Nimroz. We have launched an investigation jointly with local officials," the defence ministry said in a statement.

Provincial council member Nehmatullah Sediqqi told AFP that Afghan forces carried out two air strikes in the district.

"In the first strike six Taliban fighters were killed. The second strike hit a house that killed 15 civilians, including women and children," he said.

Nimroz public health official Nasir Ahmad Haibat said bodies of 15 people were brought to a hospital on Sunday.

Another local official, who did not want to named, said the house targeted in the strike belonged to a Taliban commander and security forces did not know there were civilians inside.

President Ashraf Ghani said he was "deeply saddened" by the civilian casualties in the air strike and urged authorities to thoroughly investigate.

But he blamed the Taliban for being responsible for the casualties.

"The Taliban and other terrorist groups are often using the people's houses as shields and are the main cause of misfortunes during a war," he said in a statement.

The latest bloodshed triggered international calls for an inquiry into the strike.

"We call for a full investigation and if need be for accountability and justice," the French embassy in Kabul said on Twitter.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report in October that 2,117 civilians were killed and 3,822 wounded in the first nine months of 2020.

The report said that about eight percent of the civilian casualties during that period were caused by Afghan air strikes.

The Taliban and Afghan forces have clashed almost daily across Afghanistan despite peace talks between the insurgents and the government.

The second round of peace talks commenced last week in the Qatari capital, with government negotiators pushing for a ceasefire as violence continues unabated across the conflict-wracked country.