No, U.S. says, strike killed militants
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.