16 Afghan po­lice killed in US strike

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KAN­DA­HAR: A US airstrike has killed 16 po­lice­men in Afghanistan, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, the lat­est set­back to Wash­ing­ton’s ef­forts to bring peace to the war-torn coun­try. The in­ci­dent took place in Hel­mand prov­ince on Fri­day as Afghan se­cu­rity forces at­tempted to clear a vil­lage of Tal­iban mil­i­tants, Salam Afghan, a po­lice spokesman, told AFP. “In the strike, 16 Afghan po­lice­men were killed in­clud­ing two com­man­ders.

Two other po­lice­men were wounded,” he said. The strike hit a com­pound in Gereshk district in Hel­mand, large parts of which are un­der Tale­ban con­trol. “A US-sup­ported (Afghan se­cu­rity) op­er­a­tion... re­sulted in the deaths of... friendly Afghan forces who were gath­ered in a com­pound,” NATO’s mis­sion in Afghanistan said in a state­ment. “We would like to ex­press our deep­est con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies af­fected by this un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent,” the state­ment said, adding there would be a probe into what hap­pened.

An in­te­rior min­istry spokesman, Na­jeeb Dan­ish, said a min­istry del­e­ga­tion had been sent to the area to in­ves­ti­gate and help fam­i­lies of the vic­tims. Hel­mand for years was the cen­tre­piece of the US and Bri­tish mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Afghanistan. But the Tale­ban now ef­fec­tively con­trols or con­tests 10 of Hel­mand’s 14 dis­tricts, blighted by a huge opium har­vest that helps fund the in­sur­gency.

In April, some 300 US Marines re­turned to the prov­ince as em­bat­tled Afghan se­cu­rity forces strug­gle to beat back the resur­gent Tale­ban. The surge helped Afghan se­cu­rity forces, backed by US air strikes, re­cap­ture Nawa district in Hel­mand six months ago. The op­er­a­tion came as Pen­tagon chief Jim Mat­tis fi­nal­ized plans to present a new Afghanistan strat­egy to Pres­i­dent Donald Trump in a bid to re­verse what US gen­er­als call a “stale­mate” at best.

In Fe­bru­ary, a US airstrike in San­gin killed at least 18 civil­ians, mostly women and chil­dren. Last Novem­ber 32 Afghan civil­ians were killed in a US airstrike in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Kun­duz. In Oc­to­ber 2015, a US air strike hit a hos­pi­tal run by Medecins Sans Fron­tieres, killing 42 peo­ple and spark­ing in­ter­na­tional out­rage. — AFP

—AFP

HEL­MAND: Afghan se­cu­rity per­son­nel sit on atop an ar­mored ve­hi­cles amid an on­go­ing bat­tle with Tale­ban mil­i­tants in the Gereshk district.

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