No, U.S. says, strike killed mil­i­tants

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL -

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, but the U.S. mil­i­tary in­sisted the dead were ex­trem­ist fight­ers.

Ha­jji Saz Wali, gov­er­nor of Haska Meena district in the south­ern part of Nan­garhar prov­ince, said the vic­tims in­cluded women and chil­dren. 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.

Bob Pur­timan, a spokesman for the U.S. mil­i­tary in Kabul, said those killed in the airstrikes had been seen load­ing weapons into a ve­hi­cle.

“The strike was con­ducted in the mid­dle of open ter­rain,” Pur­timan said. “There was zero chance of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.”

At­taullah Kh­ogyani, spokesman for the gov­er­nor of Nan­garhar, con­firmed that ca­su­al­ties had oc­curred in the area but said 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. The U.S. mil­i­tary as­serted that that strike, too, tar­geted fight­ers.

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