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