Sunday, May 20, 2018
Nation & World

U.S. airstrikes cuased at least 13 civilian casualties, Afghans say

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Airstrikes carried out by the U.S. military killed at least 13 civilians on Saturday in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, according to residents and officials in the area, a difficult battleground for both Afghan and American forces.

The airstrikes took place in the Chardara district, where Afghan commandos, often advised by the U.S. military and supported by American air power, had been carrying out operations for several days.

After overnight airstrikes against the Taliban, several residents said the fighters forced them in the morning to help them retrieve the bodies of their fighters from the rubble, at which point the airstrikes resumed.

Capt. Tom Gresback, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said they were aware of the claims and were looking into them.

Ahmad Saved Salem, a spokesman for the Afghan commandos, denied any civilians had been killed in their operations and said that 25 Taliban fighters had been killed.

"Over the past three days of our operations in the village, we haven’t seen a single civilian," Saleem said. "We have video of the eight people killed in the morning strikes, and all of them were armed."

U.S. airstrikes have more than doubled since President Donald Trump announced in August a new strategy for Afghanistan. Afghan officials have praised the strikes, saying they have helped fend off Taliban advances, but others have said the civilian toll is unacceptably high.

Residents of Gharaw Qishlaq, a village in the Chardara district, said heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan commandos had continued for days, and Taliban targets in the village had been struck repeatedly.

"At night, they bombed many times in our area," said Abdul Qayoum, a tailor in the village who lost three cousins in the airstrikes. "When I came out, I saw people carrying bodies on carts."

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