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March 11, 2019

13 civilians killed in US airstrikes in Afghanistan

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March 11, 2019

JALALABAD: At least 13 civilians, including several children, were killed in American airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan that were carried out in support of an Afghan-led operation against the Taliban, The New York Times reported.

Members of a CIA-sponsored Afghan strike force called in air support after coming under fire on Saturday as they mounted an assault on Taliban fighters in the district of Hesarak in Nangarhar Province, officials were quoted as saying.

The airstrikes hit two houses in the village of Naser Khil, said a tribal elder, Ruzi Khan Maruf. In one house, the village’s lone doctor, his wife and their five teenage daughters were killed, Maruf said by telephone.

In the other, the doctor’s brother, his wife and their four children - three teenage girls and a boy - reportedly died. The brother was an Afghan soldier, Maruf said.

Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the governor of Nangarhar province, said an important Taliban commander had also been killed in the airstrikes. The exact number of civilians killed was unclear, he said. A spokeswoman for the American-led Nato mission in Afghanistan confirmed the airstrikes but did not directly address the reports of civilian casualties, saying only that the coalition was looking into the matter.

“In self-defence, precision airstrikes were used to support the troops on the ground,” said the spokeswoman, Sgt. First Class Debra Richardson, adding that the Afghans had been targeting a Taliban operations centre. “We are fighting in a complex environment against those who intentionally kill and hide behind civilians. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of accuracy and accountability, and we are looking into this.”

American commanders say they follow strict procedures to try to ensure no civilians are present before airstrikes are authorised. They also often accuse insurgents of using civilians as shields, as Sergeant Richardson did on Sunday.

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