x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

US air strikes 'kill 16 civilians'

Twenty two civilians are reported dead in an air strike and an MP is assassinated on the same day in Afghanistan.

Afghans listen to a radio during a picnic as they view the Arghandab district, which was recently recaptured from Taliban militants by the NATO and Afghan forces in Kandahar province south of Kabul.
Afghans listen to a radio during a picnic as they view the Arghandab district, which was recently recaptured from Taliban militants by the NATO and Afghan forces in Kandahar province south of Kabul.

KABUL // The governor of the Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan has said air strikes by US attack helicopters have killed 16 civilians. The US military said it targeted two vehicles yesterday that were carrying insurgents. A spokesman for the US-led coalition said yesterday that the air strikes hit militants who had earlier attacked a military base with mortars. The helicopters identified the militants' firing positions, tracked them down and destroyed the vehicles they were travelling in, said First Lt Nathan Perry.

"These were combatants. These were people who were firing on us," he added. "We have no reports of non-combatant injuries." No account of the casualties in the vehicles was given. But the provincial governor, Tamim Nuristani, said 16 civilians were killed as they were travelling out of the area after being told by security forces to leave ahead of an operation. "The casualties were all civilians. They included two women, two children and workers and shopkeepers travelling in two pick-up vehicles," Mr Nuristani said. Two doctors and a female nurse were also dead, he said. "Altogether 16 people, all civilians, were killed," he said. Seven other people - all men - were injured in the strike by attack helicopters, the governor added. Mr Nuristani had orignally said the death toll was 22.

The military base is nine kilometres away from where the air strike happened, he added. It was impossible to independently verify any of the claims because of the remoteness of the area. In other violence, an Afghan official today said gunmen in the south had assassinated Habibullah Jan, a member of parliament.

The Kandahar provincial council member Bismullih Afghanmul said Mr Jan was shot after he visited an Afghan army compound in the Zhari district of Kandahar province late yesterday. Zhari has been contested heavily by militants and Canadian forces for the past two years. Mr Jan used to be a military commander in the area before he become a member of parliament. Taliban fighters have frequently targeted Afghan officials, but Mr Jan's death was the first of a parliamentarian in months.

*AP