Airstrike in Afghanistan causes civilian casualties

An airstrike in Afghanistan on Friday hit the home of a Taliban commander in the eastern province of Nangarhar and caused several civilian casualties, government and insurgent spokesmen said.

The strike targeted the home of Mawlawi Mohammad Alam, a Taliban commander in the Sherzad district, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, adding that there were casualties but he could not confirm numbers.

A police official said the strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft and killed four people inside the house.

A dozen wounded civilians, among them seven children and five women, were taken to the local hospital, said Najibullah Kamawal, the director of provincial health services, four of them in critical condition.

U.S. forces had carried out a strike in Sherzad on Friday in defense of “friendly forces”, a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in Kabul, the capital, but gave no details. Reports of civilian casualties would be investigated, he added.

“We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and will work with our Afghan partners to review all related material,” Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said in an emailed statement.

In a statement, the Taliban said American and Afghan forces had carried out a ground attack on Mohammad Alam’s home, followed by an airstrike, in which two civilians were killed and more than 30 wounded.

The United States has unleashed many raids against Islamic State and al Qaeda militants in eastern Afghanistan, most recently on Sunday, when officials said two al Qaeda leaders were killed in the neighboring province of Kunar.

However, new combat rules issued this year have also given U.S. commanders greater scope to attack Taliban militants, pushing up the number of airstrikes sharply.

James Mackenzie, Reuters

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