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article imageU.S. Afghan drone strike said to kill at least 15 civilians

By Ken Hanly     Sep 29, 2016 in World
U.S. drones attacked an area in eastern Nagarhar Province in Afghanistan where there has been a resurgence of activity by the Islamic State. The UN and some locals claim that at least 15 civilians were killed and another 13 wounded.
Local officials did not describe the drones as specifically American but no one else operates drones in the area.
The main target of the attacks were a house said to belong to a public health employee. The Pentagon had earlier announced that drone strikes in the province had killed 13 members of the Islamic State, a claim repeated by Afghan police but who said that 18 Islamic State (IS) fighters were killed.
Afghan provincial officials said they would send a commission to investigate the attacks. Unlike former president Karzai, President Ghani has had a muted reaction to civilian deaths by U.S. attacks. The investigation could cause the Pentagon to be more up front about verifying the results of their attacks. Just over a week ago a U.S. airstrike designed to rescue Afghan police ended by blowing up their checkpoint and killing eight.
A Guardian article speaks of the UN and locals saying that drone strikes in Nangarhar targeting Islamic State fighters instead killed at least 15 civilians and injured another 13. The area targeted is under IS control. The report also mentions the target as a house and claims that the inhabitants were sleeping after having welcomed home a tribal elder who had returned from his hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The UN had a high level delegation visiting Jalalabad, the capital of Nagarhar province. The UN report was issued as conflicting reports were still coming out.
The U.S. acknowledged that it had conducted the drone attacks but would not discuss any details "because we are still reviewing all materials related to the strike". Nangarhar officials said at first that the strike had killed 18 IS militants including a key commander. However, a parliamentarian from Nangarhar claimed that the victims were civilians who had travelled from surrounding areas to welcome the elder back home.
The Islamic State appeared in public in Nangarhar as early as May of 2015. The province is virtually the only place in Afghanistan where it has established a foothold. Their leader in Afghanistan was killed in an airstrike in July and the group appears to be on the defensive. However, just over the past week, they have recaptured southern areas of the province including Achin where the drone strike took place. While the Afghan ministry of defense promised an investigation, the UN wanted an independent investigation.
The Euronews claims that at least 18 people were killed but that other sources put the death toll higher. The report also claims the target was a house in which people were sleeping after welcoming a local elder back from Mecca. One of the wounded Hafzullah Khan said: “The bombing happened at 3.00am and I was asleep, I did not know what happened, I just heard a big blast.” The report claims that some IS fighters were among the dead.
It is almost exactly a year since U.S. airstrikes hit a hospital in Kunduz operated by Doctors Without Borders. The attacks killed 42, including patients and doctors. Both the U.S. and Afghan governments refused calls from Doctors Without Borders and others for an independent investigation.
More about US in Afghanistan, Civilian deaths in dr, Islamic State in Afghanistan
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