Soldiers were responsible for a rocket strike that caused the death of nearly 20 wedding guests on New Year's Day, officials say. The tragedy overshadowed Afghanistan's official takeover of national security from NATO.
At least two Afghan soldiers are to be court-martialed in connection with a rocket strike that killed 17 wedding guests, mostly women and children, and wounded about 50 others, in the country's volatile Helmand province, officials said Friday.
"Those Afghan army troops accused of firing the mortar rounds have been referred to a military court," said deputy provincial governor Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar.
The military said it was returning fire at militants who attacked an army post near to where the celebration was being held. Villagers also told army officials who arrived on Friday that it was their own soldiers who fired the stray rocket.
According to news agency DPA, provincial police spokesman Farid Obaid said "after the attack, the soldiers fired rockets at the insurgents' hideouts, but one of them landed on the wedding ceremony."
Helmand residents have taken to the streets, calling for a government investigation and for the resignation of the province's political leaders.
The Taliban condemned the incident, saying "once again the people of Afghanistan and the international community can see the barbaric attacks on innocent civilians carried out by our domestic and invading enemies."
The rocket strike came just hours before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani marked the country's official takeover of full security responsibility early Thursday, ending NATO's 13-year combat mission. The president also expressed his condolences for Thursday's "tragic incident."
According to the United Nations (UN) some, 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan last year - 75 percent of them by the Taliban.
es/ksb (AFP, dpa)