U.S. airstrike on ISIS strong­hold kills 16 Afghan civil­ians

Same area was hit last month, caus­ing 9 deaths

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD - NEW YORK TIMES

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Afghan of­fi­cials said Fri­day that U.S. war­planes killed 16 civil­ians as they tried to flee an area in eastern Afghanistan con­trolled by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

Ha­jji Saz Wali, gov­er­nor of Haska Meena district in the south­ern part of Nan­garhar prov­ince, said the vic­tims in­cluded women and chil­dren; eight were from one fam­ily, and four oth­ers from a sec­ond fam­ily.

It was the sec­ond time since July 24 that an airstrike in that district killed civil­ians, ac­cord­ing to Afghan of­fi­cials.

The lat­est vic­tims died Thurs­day af­ter­noon when the ve­hi­cles they were trav­el­ing in were hit by U.S. airstrikes be­lieved to be tar­get­ing Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in the area, Wali said. It is not known how many were wounded, he added.

A spokesman for the U.S. mil­i­tary in Kabul said mil­i­tary of­fi­cials were aware of the re­ports but would not com­ment im­me­di­ately.

At­taullah Kh­ogyani, spokesman for the gov­er­nor of Nan­garhar, con­firmed that ca­su­al­ties had oc­curred in the area but said that of­fi­cials would re­lease de­tails later.

On July 24, Afghan of­fi­cials said, nine civil­ians were killed in a U.S. airstrike on a prayer cer­e­mony held in Haska Meena district by rel­a­tives of Is­lamic State mem­bers who had pre­vi­ously been killed. As the tempo of U.S. airstrikes con­tin­ues at a rapid pace, there have been a num­ber of such in­ci­dents in re­cent months.

Claims of civil­ian deaths from airstrikes have oc­curred this year in Kun­duz in the north and in Hel­mand prov­ince in the south, of­ten as a re­sult of fight­ing in ar­eas where it can be dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish in­sur­gents from civil­ians.

Haska Meena district, also known as Dih Bala district, is in a rugged area close to the bor­der with Pak­istan. The neigh­bor­ing Achin district was long a strong­hold of the Is­lamic State and was where the United States dropped the so-called mother of all bombs this year, the largest con­ven­tional bomb ever de­ployed, on a tun­nel and bunker com­plex where in­sur­gents had taken refuge.

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