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July 24, 2020

Eight civilians killed in Afghan strike on freed Taliban commander

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July 24, 2020

HERAT/GHAZNI: Eight civilians were killed when an Afghan air strike hit a group of people gathered to celebrate a Taliban commander´s release from prison, an official said Thursday.

The strike in the western province of Herat on Wednesday drew condemnation from a top US diplomat and underscores the worsening violence in Afghanistan´s war even as the Taliban and Kabul are supposed to be preparing for peace talks.

According to Ali Ahmad Faqir Yar, the district governor in the area where the strike took place, a group had gathered to welcome the Taliban commander. "An air strike was carried out during the ceremony and civilians who participated were among those killed," he said putting the toll at eight civilian dead and 16 wounded.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, said photographs and witness accounts indicated that many civilians, including children, had been killed. "We urge all sides to contain the violence, protect civilians, and show necessary restraint as the start of intra-Afghan negotiations is so close," he said on Twitter.

The defence ministry, however, disputed both accounts and said none of those killed were civilians. Afghan forces had carried out the strike "based on intelligence photos and videos", the ministry said. "The defence ministry´s investigation is ongoing.”