Civilians killed in Afghan forces’ anti-Taliban operation

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A number of civilians have been killed in an air raid and ground assault on a Taliban hideout by Afghan special forces in the southern Helmand province.

There were conflicting reports on the number of people killed and wounded in the operation on Sunday night in Musa Qala district, which is under Taliban control.

Officials said the civilians killed were part of a wedding procession that came under fire during the operation targeting a house used by the Taliban.

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Omar Zwak, the provincial governor’s spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Monday that at least 14 fighters, including six foreigners, had been killed, adding that authorities were investigating reports on civilian casualties.

“We know there have been civilian deaths in this raid but we don’t have a number yet,” he said. “However, we are investigating to find out more.”

Attaullah Afghan, a member of the Helmand provincial council, told Reuters news agency that 35 civilians had been killed and 13 wounded.

Abdul Majed Akhund, deputy provincial councilman, told The Associated Press news agency authorities were investigating reports that at least 24 people attending a wedding died in the raid.

Afghanistan’s security forces have been heavily criticised for inflicting civilian casualties during night-time raids.

Afghan and allied international forces, including NATO, have killed more civilians in the first three months of this year than the Taliban and fighters from other armed groups, a UN report said in April.

At least 305 civilians have been killed by pro-government forces between January and March, some 52 percent of all deaths in that period, according to findings from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

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In one of the most condemned incidents earlier this month, four brothers were killed in a raid conducted by the CIA-trained and funded 02 Unit of Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

On Friday, the US confirmed carrying out a drone attack on September 19 that killed at least 30 farmers in Nangarhar province. At least 40 others were wounded in the attack in Wazir Tangi area of Khogyani district.

The United States and the Taliban began peace talks last October in Qatar, with the aim of ending the almost 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.

But in a surprise move, US President Donald Trump announced last month after the ninth round of talks that he had cancelled the negotiations without a deal.

A week after the talks were cancelled, Trump said in a tweet that the Taliban have “never been hit harder”.

“After Trump cancelling the peace deal with the Taliban, there has been increase in drone attacks and ground operations, that is causing increase in civilian casualties,”  Faizullah Zaland, a political analyst based in Kabul, told Al Jazeera.

It will deepen mistrust among people in the Afghan government and will deepen the current crisis,”

“US must play a more responsible role in ending the meaningless war and prevent Afghan civilian casualties with immediate effect,” he said.

Afghanistan will hold its fourth presidential elections on September 28 since US-led forces toppled the Taliban from power in 2001.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/civilians-killed-afghan-forces-anti-taliban-operation-190923081202690.html

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