16 Afghan po­lice­men killed in US airstrike

The strike hit a com­pound in Gereshk district in Hel­mand

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Kan­da­har, Afghanistan - A US airstrike has killed 16 po­lice­men in Afghanistan, of­fi­cials said on Satur­day, 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 Taliban 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 Taliban now ef­fec­tively con­trols or con­tests ten 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 Taliban.

The surge helped Afghan se­cu­rity forces, backed by US airstrikes, re­cap­ture Nawa district in Hel­mand six months ago.

The op­er­a­tion came as Pen­tagon chief Jim Mat­tis fi­nalised 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.

MSF re­opens fa­cil­ity

Mean­while, Medecins Sans Fron­tiers in Afghanistan on Satur­day re­opened a small med­i­cal clinic in north­ern Kun­duz prov­ince where nearly two years ago a US airstrike de­stroyed their hos­pi­tal, killing over 40.

The new fa­cil­ity, which has one doc­tor and five nurses, will only pro­vide out­pa­tient treat­ment of mi­nor and chronic wounds and is not lo­cated at the site of the bombed hos­pi­tal.

“We de­cided to restart med­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in Kun­duz, be­cause the needs are big in the con­flict con­text... and this clinic is the first step,” Sil­via Dal­latomasina, MSF head of pro­grammes in Afghanistan told AFP.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion stopped its ac­tiv­i­ties in Kun­duz af­ter the Oc­to­ber 2015 bomb­ing that killed 42, in­clud­ing 24 pa­tients and 14 staff, seek­ing as­sur­ances from the US and Afghan mil­i­tary, as well as the Taliban, to pro­tect their fa­cil­i­ties.

“We are fi­nal­is­ing the com­mit­ment of ev­ery stake­holder of the con­flict,” Dal­latomasina said, adding she hoped work would start on a new trauma cen­tre in Kun­duz next year.

The 2015 bomb­ing drew crit­i­cism from sev­eral quar­ters, with the United Na­tions hu­man rights chief say­ing it could amount to a war crime.

(AFP)

An Afghan girl re­ceives treat­ment at a hos­pi­tal in Jalal­abad Prov­ince on Fri­day af­ter los­ing her lower legs in the ex­plo­sion of a land­mine planted by in­sur­gents

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