Incident underlines the daily risks Afghan civilians face amid fighting between the Taliban and government forces [File: Reuters]
Afghan forces killed nine people in an operation that went wrong in Afghanistan‘s eastern Nangarhar province.
An elite unit of the Afghan special forces barged into several houses and conducted raids in Charparhar district late on Monday. Eight other people were also wounded in the operation.
“Eight of those killed were civilians and one was a local police commander,” Attaullah Khoghyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman, told Al Jazeera.
Family members of Senate chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar were among the dead, Khoghyani said.
Inamullah Miakhial, spokesman for Nangarhar’s regional hospital, told Al Jazeera a woman and a young girl were among the wounded.
“Most of them who were killed are the victims of gunshot injuries,” Miakhial said.
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Eyewitnesses among the wounded said as the special forces soldiers approached their house, residents opened fire thinking the Taliban or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters were attacking them.
“Last night the special forces attacked our district and some houses so residents opened fire as well,” Ghulam Haider told Al Jazeera.
“Everyone here wants to protect themselves because of the constant violence. Why did the special security forces attack houses of residents?”
There was no immediate comment from the defence ministry.
An investigation was under way to determine the purpose of the operation and find out why the civilian casulaties occurred, according to Khogyani.
Civilians deaths are not uncommon in Afghanistan as fighting between the Taliban and security forces has intensified since the armed group announced its annual spring offensive last month.
In March, at least seven farmers were killed after Afghan forces carried out a raid on two villages in Chaparhar district. Two of those killed were 15 and 16 years old.
In April, rockets and heavy machine gun fire from Afghan government helicopters killed and wounded at least 107 boys and men attending a religious ceremony near the northern city of Kunduz, a recent UN report said, underlining the risks of a new US-promoted strategy that has seen an increase in the use of Afghan air power.
The UN also expressed concern over the high number of casualties from air attacks even before the Dasht-i Archi incident, with 67 deaths and 75 injuries in the first three months of the year.
Violence has spread across Afghanistan in recent weeks with heavy fighting between security forces and the Taliban in the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan and Faryab in the north to Farah in the west.