Agence France-Presse & James Mackenzie and Abdul Qadir Sediqi / Reuters – 2018-09-29 00:29:34
Ten Children, Two Women Killed in Air Strike in
Afghanistan’s Wardak Province, Says Initial UN Report
Agence France-Presse & FirstPost.com
KABUL (September 26, 2018) — An airstrike appears to have killed 12 members of an Afghan family, most of them children, the United Nations said, citing preliminary findings, as US and Afghan forces ramp up aerial bombardments against militants.
The victims, including 10 children aged six to 15 and two women, died on Sunday night when an “aerial ordnance” destroyed their house in a village in Wardak province, near Kabul, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement late Tuesday.
The findings support earlier comments from provincial council member Ahmad Jahfari, who told AFP that 12 members of a family had been killed in an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters.
A villager called Abdullah told AFP that two of his sisters died in the attack that he said claimed the lives of more than 12 civilians. “Three other houses were also destroyed,” Abdullah said. “They wanted to bomb a Taliban prison about 100 metres (330 feet) from our house.”
UNAMA is also reviewing reports of civilian casualties from “a number of alleged air strikes in other parts of the country”, its statement said. That includes “credible reports” that nine members of a family were killed in an air strike on Saturday in the eastern province of Kapisa. US Forces confirmed it had carried out an air strike in support of Afghan ground troops in Kapisa, but killed “only militants”, spokesman David Butler said earlier. It is not clear if the air strike in Wardak was carried out by US or Afghan forces.
Afghanistan’s defence ministry is investigating both incidents, spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed told AFP.
US Forces said it was reviewing “relevant and credible information” relating to its operations in Wardak.
UNAMA expressed its “strong concern” at the rising number of civilian casualties from air strikes this year. Air strikes killed or wounded 353 civilians in the first half, up 52 percent from the same period in 2017. The figure accounted for roughly seven percent of total civilian casualties for the six-month period.
One of the worst incidents was in the northern province of Kunduz in April, when an Afghan air strike on an outdoor religious gathering in Dashte Archi killed or wounded 107 people, mostly children, a previous UNAMA report found. The government and military said it had targeted a Taliban base where senior members of the group were planning attacks.
US and Afghan forces have dramatically increased air offensives against Taliban and Islamic State insurgents in the past year as they try to get the upper hand in the 17-year war.
US forces employed 746 weapons in July, which was the highest monthly total since November 2010, the most recent US Air Forces Central Command data shows. That is more than double the 350 munitions used in July 2017, a month before US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan that gave American forces greater leeway to go after militants.
Afghanistan’s fledgling air force also has accelerated bombardments as the United States beefs up the country’s aerial capability with more aircraft and better weapons.
UN Concerned over Spike in
Civilian Casualties in Afghan Air Strikes
James Mackenzie and Abdul Qadir Sediqi / Reuters
KABUL (September 25, 2018) — The United Nations mission in Afghanistan voiced concern on Tuesday over increasing numbers of civilian casualties as a result of airstrikes by US or government forces, following reports that nine were killed in an eastern province last week.
Air strikes have spiked steeply this year, in a strategy aimed at forcing Taliban militants to accept peace talks, with the number of bombs dropped by the US air force almost doubling in the first six months, to nearly 3,000.
The UNAMA mission said it had received “multiple, credible allegations” that a strike hit the house of a teacher in the eastern province of Kapisa on Saturday, killing nine members of the same family, including three women and four children. Six others were wounded, it said.
“UNAMA reminds all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm,” it said in a statement.
“The Mission repeats its earlier call for government forces to uphold their commitment to regular review of targeting protocols and ensure mitigation measures and compensation for victims.”
Mohammad Radmanish, a defense ministry spokesman confirmed civilian casualties during a joint operation by Afghan and US forces that involved air support, but gave no details. He said an investigation was underway.
The US military in Kabul said it was reviewing information regarding the Kapisa incident and reiterated that it did all it could to avoid civilian casualties.
“We are aware of the UNAMA announcement regarding Kapisa as well as the Afghan government’s statements, and that they’re conducting their independent process,” it said in an emailed statement.
“It isn’t uncommon for insurgents to use these accusations to drive a wedge between the military and the population. We will provide updates as they become available.”
The reports underlined one of the problems facing Gen. Scott Miller, the new US commander in Afghanistan who took up his post this month and must balance the need to pressure the Taliban with the need to avoid civilian casualties.
United Nations’ data shows a jump of 52 percent in the number of civilians killed or wounded in air strikes in the first six months of the year. The UN said 149 civilians were killed and 204 wounded in air attacks in the year’s first half, with women and children comprising more than half the 353 casualties.
Since the figures were reported in July, the UN said it had recorded increasing numbers of civilian casualties from air strikes.
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