Afghan president confirms civilians died in airstrikes by armed forces
Kabul, Jan 11 (efe-epa).- The president of Afghanistan on Monday confirmed civilian casualties during airstrikes by the country’s armed forces in the western part of the country during the weekend.
At least 12 civilians were killed and several others were injured in an Afghan air force strike targeting Taliban fighters Saturday night in Nimroz province.
“Deeply saddened with the news of martyrdom of injuring of a number of our compatriots in result of an airstrike in Khashrod district of Nimroz province,” Ashraf Ghani said in a statement, while also expressing condolences to the families of the victims.
Ghani directed the local authorities to assist the families of the victims and asked the security agencies to “comprehensively investigate” the incident and share the result with the presidential palace.
“In order to prevent civilian casualties (in future operations), I ordered the security forces to take full precautions during their operations,” Ghani said.
Despite confirming the casualties caused by the airstrike, Ghani blamed the militants for the civilian deaths.
“Taliban and other terrorist groups who use civilian houses and public buildings as shield and fighting positions, are the real cause of the civilian casualties,” he underlined.
The president added that “civilian casualties are the misfortunes of the war” and was not acceptable for his government.
The airstrikes on late Saturday came in response to a call for air support from the Afghan ground troops during an operation to dismantle a Taliban extortion checkpoint on a highway in the province.
The insurgents are known to set up checkposts along highways passing through the region to maintain control over the routes connecting different parts of the country.
With the US having agreed to a progressive pullout of its troops in an agreement with the Taliban last year, the Afghan forces have been playing a greater role in the security of the country and are currently responsible for 96 percent of the military operations within Afghanistan.
According to the latest civilian casualty report released in October by the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in the first nine months of 2020 pro-government troops were responsible for 28 percent of civilian deaths and injuries in the country.
In total there were 5,939 civilian casualties, with 2,117 dead and 3,822 injured, the lowest number since 2012.
The recent strikes come as peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which began last September and seek to end nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, resume in Doha this week. EFE-EPA