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Afghanistan Probes Claims of Civilian Casualties

by AFP

Wakil Kohsar—AFP

Inquiry follows allegations of at least 14 deaths during military ground operation against Islamic State

Afghan officials launched an investigation on Wednesday into claims at least 14 civilians were killed in a military ground operation targeting the Islamic State group in their stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.

Following Tuesday night’s raid by Afghan special forces in Rodat district of Nangarhar province, scores of protesters temporarily blocked a major highway linking Afghanistan and Pakistan to demand action against those responsible for the attack.

Sultan Mohammad, who was among the protesters, told AFP 14 people were killed in the operation and four others were wounded. Local elder Najibullah Amarkhil put the death toll slightly higher at 16, including women and children.

“Government forces raided several houses—they killed 14 people, including a six-month-old baby,” Amarkhil told AFP, adding two more died from their wounds in hospital. “We demand the government punish those responsible.”

Afghan broadcaster Tolo News said the death toll was “at least 17.”

Images posted on Tolo’s Twitter account purportedly showed dozens of men crowded around the bodies of victims under a tent next to the highway connecting the Nangarhar provincial capital of Jalalabad with Torkham, one of the major border crossings into Pakistan.

Provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani confirmed there had been casualties in the operation and said an official probe was under way. “A delegation has been sent to the area to investigate the incident and report back to us,” Khogyani told AFP.

Ordinary Afghans have borne the brunt of the 17-year war, which is on track to be deadlier than Syria in 2018.

Civilians continue to face “extreme levels of harm,” a recent U.N. report said, with 8,050 people killed or wounded in the January to September period.

Violence has intensified in the past year as U.S. and Afghan forces step up ground and air offensives against Taliban and I.S. insurgents. I.S., a smaller but potent rival of the Taliban, emerged in the region in 2014 and quickly established a heavy presence in Afghanistan’s east before expanding north.

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