40 people attending wedding killed in military strike on Taliban

40 people attending a wedding are killed in Afghan military strike targeting Taliban fighters in a building next door

  • Strike on Taliban hideout in Helmand province killed 40 civilians on Sunday 
  • Most of those killed were women and children at the wedding in Musa Qala 
  • Another 12 were taken to the hospital in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital
  • It comes amid a spate of civilian deaths since the collapse of peace talks

At least 40 civilians were killed by Afghan forces when they struck a wedding party next door to Taliban hideouts in Helmand province, officials said.

The civilian deaths on Sunday are the latest in a surge of violence since the collapse this month of US-Taliban peace talks to end America’s longest war.

Most of the dead were women and children who were at the wedding in the Musa Qala region, according to Abdul Majed Akhund, deputy provincial councillor. 

Another 12 civilians were wounded and taken to hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, he said.

Afghan villagers carry a dead body on a stretcher outside a hospital following an airstrike in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province on Monday

Men sit in the back of a truck alongside the body of a dead relative wrapped in a white sheet after the attack by US-backed Afghan forces

Men wheel an elderly man from the hospital on Monday after Sunday’s raid on Taliban positions killed at least 40 civilians

The civilian deaths occurred during the second of two raids in different areas of Musa Qala, said Attahullah Afghan, head of the provincial council.

The operations killed 22 Taliban fighters, including foreigners, Afghanistan’s defence ministry said in a statement. 

Fourteen people were arrested, including five Pakistani nationals and one Bangladeshi. The statement said a large warehouse of supplies and equipment was also destroyed.

‘The foreign terrorist group was actively engaged in organising terrorist attacks,’ it said.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said: ‘We are saddened and devastated to hear that civilians have lost their lives in an incident in Helmand despite President Ghani’s repeated call for extra cautions in conducting military operations.’

People shift the bodies of their relatives who were killed in an air raid and ground assault on a Taliban hideout by Afghan special forces

He added that Helmand’s provincial governor has been instructed to send an investigation team to the area.  

The raids came after a drone attack last week in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province – blamed on US forces – killed at least 16 and wounded tens of others, most of them civilians. US forces said that attack was targeting Islamic State militants.

Also, in an insider attack at Kandahar airport on Monday, a policeman turned his weapon on a Nato Resolute Support convoy, according to a statement tweeted by a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan.

A body is wheeled through Helmand province on Monday

Resolute Support forces returned fire, killing the attacker, the statement from Colonel Sonny Leggett said. Three Resolute Support service members suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the statement said.

The violence comes as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections on Saturday, a vote the Taliban vehemently oppose. The Taliban are at their strongest since their removal in 2001 and hold sway over more than half the country, staging near-daily attacks across Afghanistan.

The insurgent group has warned Afghans not to vote in the election and said their fighters would target election campaigns as well as polling stations.

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