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Children among dozens killed in airstrike on Afghanistan wedding

At least 40 civilians were killed in the airstrike [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2019

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At least 40 civilians, including children, were killed in an airstrike on a wedding celebration, Afghan authorities said.
Afghanistan is investigating reports that 40 civilians, including children, were killed in an airstrike during a wedding celebration in southern Helmand province, officials said on Monday.

The defence ministry said it would "share the result of the investigation" into the deaths overnight in Musa Qala district, which come less than a week after a drone killed at least nine civilians in Nangarhar province east of Kabul. 

Helmand's governor said 14 Taliban fighters and six foreigners "were killed in airstrikes conducted by the Afghan special forces", adding in a statement that authorities were investigating the claims of civilian casualties.

Residents and local officials in Helmand said an evening ceremony, part of a wedding celebration, was underway when security forces launched a ground and aerial operation against suspected militants. 

Majeed Akhundzada, a member of the Helmand provinical council, told AFP that both Afghan and foreign forces had been involved in the fighting. 

"Some 40 people were killed and 18 others were wounded and were brought to the hospital, all the victims were civlians," he said. 

Sher Mohammad Akhundza, a provincial senator, also put the toll at 40 dead. 

While the Afghan military does have a fledgling air force, most strikes are led or supported by the United States, the only member of the international coalition in Afghanistan that provides aerial support in the conflict.

There was no immediate comment from NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

The UN documented a sharp rise in civilian deaths from airstrikes last year, as Afghan and US forces intensified the aerial bombardment of Taliban and Islamic State group militants. 

Ordinary Afghans continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, with more civilians killed in the Afghan war in 2018 than during any other year on record, the UN said.

Earlier this month, a BBC investigation revealed an average of 74 people were killed every day in Afghanistan in August.

It reported 611 security incidents killing 2,307 people, noting most of the those killed were combatants, including US and Afghan security and military forces, as well as Taliban fighters.

The BBC's report claims that the war in Afghanistan is the most lethal conflict in the world, where fatalities in August have been three times higher than in either Syria or Yemen.

The Taliban said it strongly rejected the data, calling the report as "based on the daily propaganda of interior and defence ministries of Kabul administration".

The statistics paint a bleak picture of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, which has been embroiled in almost constant war since 1978. The United States campaign in the central Asian country began in 2001 following the September 11 attacks.

A peace deal between the US and the Taliban seemed likely following almost a year long series of negotiations before President Trump abruptly cancelled the peace talks a week ago.

Despite the negotiations, the Taliban continued to strike civilian and military targets during the same period, and hundreds of Afghans have been killed each week.

Afghan security forces are further bracing themselves for even more violence with presidential elections due later this month. Just this morning, an attack on an election rally by incumbent President Ashraf Ghani killed at least 24 people.

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