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Dozens dead as US-backed strike hits Afghan wedding

September 23, 2019

The incident comes after the US ramped up airstrikes in Afghanistan, contributing to pro-government forces being responsible for more deaths than militants. Most of the dead in the airstrike were women and children.

US military drone in Afghanistan
Image: Reuters/J. Smith

At least 40 civilians attending a wedding party were killed in a raid conducted by Afghan government forces and supported by US airstrikes on a Taliban hideout in southern Helmand province, Afghan officials said Monday.

Abdul Majed Akhund, deputy provincial councilman, said that the majority of the dead were women and children. Twelve civilians were also injured. 

Read more: Why did President Donald Trump call off Taliban talks?

The Sunday night operation in Musa Qala district targeted a house near the wedding party used by the Taliban to train suicide bombers, including foreigners, Afghan defense officials said.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that 22 Taliban members were killed and 14 others arrested in the raid. Among those arrested were five Pakistani nationals and one Bangladeshi.

"The foreign terrorist group was actively engaged in organizing terrorist attacks," said the statement, adding that a warehouse of the militants' supplies and equipment was also destroyed.

US, Afghan forces cause more civilian deaths

The accident comes a week after a US drone strike on suspected "Islamic State" militants killed 30 civilians and injured 40 others as they were collecting pine nuts in a forest.

According to the UN, in the first six months of this year, anti-government militants caused the majority of the 3,812 civilian casualties (1,366 deaths and 2,446 injured), but civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces exceeded those caused by militants. 

Civilian casualties including deaths and injuries attributed to anti-government elements have decreased by 43% during the first half of 2019 as compared with 2018, while civilian casualties attributed to pro-government forces increased by 31%, the UN mission to Afghanistan said in July. 

US President Donald Trump has ramped up airstrikes on militants in Afghanistan over the past two years after the Taliban and other militant groups that control large swaths of the country continued to attack the Western-backed government and foreign forces.

Over 20 months, from January 1, 2018, to August 31 of this year, the US Air Force has "released" 11,845 weapons from manned aircraft and drones, according to US military numbers.

That compares to 11,768 weapons released in the five-year period spanning 2013 to 2017.

US-Taliban peace talks to end 18-years of war collapsed earlier this month.

cw/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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