U.S. mil­i­tary says a Novem­ber fire­fight with the Tal­iban killed 33 civil­ians in Afghanistan

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATIONAL & WORLD -

KABUL, Afghanistan — An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a Novem­ber fire­fight be­tween Tal­iban in­sur­gents and joint U.S. and Afghan forces has con­cluded that 33 civil­ians were killed in the op­er­a­tion, the U.S. mil­i­tary said on Thurs­day.

The bat­tle took place in north­ern Kun­duz prov­ince, and two U.S. sol­diers and three Afghan troops were also killed. The op­er­a­tion, in Boz Kan­da­hari vil­lage, tar­geted Tal­iban lead­ers the U.S. mil­i­tary said were re­spon­si­ble for deadly in­cur­sions in the area. The in­sur­gents briefly cap­tured the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal’s cen­tral neigh­bor­hoods.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined, re­gret­fully, that 33 civil­ians were killed and 27 wounded,” a state­ment from U.S. forces in Afghanistan said of the Novem­ber raid. It said that 26 Tal­iban fight­ers, in­clud­ing two lead­ers, were also killed, which the vil­lagers dis­pute.

“To de­fend them­selves and Afghan forces, U.S. forces re­turned fire in self­de­fense at Tal­iban who were us­ing civil­ian houses as fir­ing po­si­tions,” the state­ment said, adding that no fur­ther ac­tion would be taken.

No com­pen­sa­tion has been paid to vic­tims’ sur­vivors, ac­cord­ing to Kun­duz law­maker Fa­tima Aziz.

“We want the U.S. govern­ment to pay repa­ra­tions,” Aziz said when reached by tele­phone. “For the loss of civil­ian lives and the de­struc­tion of their houses.”

The probe came as civil­ian ca­su­al­ties have reached record highs in Afghanistan, where bat­tles in ru­ral ar­eas and sui­cide and other bomb at­tacks are caus­ing most civil­ian deaths, killing more than 2,500 peo­ple in the first nine months of 2016.

Air op­er­a­tions were re­spon­si­ble for 133 deaths from Jan­uary to Septem­ber, the United Na­tions said, though only one-third of those were caused by for­eign airstrikes.

In Kun­duz, U.S. and Afghan troops called in airstrikes af­ter com­ing un­der fire in the vil­lage, the re­port said.

“Upon ar­rival at the vil­lage, friendly forces were soon en­gaged by the Tal­iban from mul­ti­ple civil­ian build­ings,” it said. U.S. forces there to ad­vise and as­sist Afghan troops called in airstrikes to “sup­press Tal­iban” who were fir­ing on med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion crews.

“No civil­ians were seen or iden­ti­fied in the course of the bat­tle,” the U.S. mil­i­tary said, adding that the civil­ians who were killed or in­jured “were likely in­side the build­ings from which the Tal­iban were fight­ing.”

But res­i­dents of the vil­lage dis­pute that ac­count. One, Ja­malud­din, said every­one had been asleep when the troops ar­rived and that the bomb­ing lasted five hours.

By The Wash­ing­ton Post

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