Kabul, Afghanistan – An Afghan official claimed Monday that dozens of civilians were killed during an attack on Taliban hideouts by US and Afghan special forces in southern Helmand province. A U.S. military official confirmed to CBS News that the U.S. Air Force was called in to support the forces during an attack on senior al-Qaeda members. They said the US was "assessing the allegations" of civilian casualties.
There have been conflicting reports about the number of killed and injured, but this is just the latest case of alleged civilian casualties accused by US and Afghan forces of fighting the Taliban and its partners.
Already in 2019, there have been more civilian casualties blamed on the Afghan and coalition security forces than on the Taliban.
USA. military officials told CBS News that at least a dozen fighters were killed in an attack in the Taliban-controlled Musa Kala neighborhood in Helmand, including several "senior al-Qaeda members."
Omar Zwak, spokesman for the governor of Helmand province, said 14 rebels were killed, including six foreigners, but he confirmed that there were reports of civilian casualties being investigated by the governor's office.
Sound and a US military official told CBS News that four people have been arrested, including nationals of Pakistan and Bangladesh. One of the detainees was a woman.
But Abdul Majid Ahundzada, a member of the Helmand Provincial Council, stated that at least 40 civilians, including many women and children, were killed in the operation as a wedding party held near a purpose-built building was caught in the attack. He said the government had been told in advance that a wedding was taking place, but he did not deny that Taliban fighters were known in the area.
"Don't Kill Us": Civilians "Trapped in War"
A U.S. military official told CBS News that during the operation, a suicide bomber exited the target house and exploded, killing and injuring "several people" the house. When other fighters opened fire on Afghan and US special forces, U.S. air strikes were called.
A U.S. defense official in Afghanistan told CBS News that there were multiple secondary bombings following the air strikes, indicating that the compound was being used as a statement issued later Monday by U.S. military command in Afghanistan. , confirmed that there were "deliberate precision strikes," but said: "We estimate the majority of those killed in the fighting killed by al-Qa'eda weapons or the explosion of terrorist caches or suicide explosions. "
One US official who spoke to CBS News said that the US military has always taken civilian casualties seriously and stressed that these latest reports are being investigated jointly with Afghan officials. The official does not dispute the allegations that members of a wedding party were caught up in the violence Sunday night.
"Locals are trapped in a war between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces," a resident said to CBS News by phone. "We told the Taliban:" don't settle for a stranger side fighters near our houses, "we told the Afghan government," don't target us, if the fighters live in the middle of our houses, it's not our desire or our fault. it can't stop anyone. ""  The US military often accuses the Taliban of using human shields while operating in areas with significant civilian presence.
Last week, an American drone strike in Nangarhar province targeted at ISIS fighters left nine civilians dead. The US military has confirmed that they are investigating the report on civilian casualties, but noted that the US is "fighting in a complex environment against those who deliberately kill and hide behind civilians, and use dishonest claims for non-combat casualties, as a propaganda weapon. "
However, with little hope of an imminent peace deal ending the invasion of the United States after 9/11 to overthrow the Taliban in 2001, civilian casualties continue to increase – and continue to be blamed, often by the people themselves. country US-backed security forces or America itself.
As CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reported last week, with the removal of President Trump from direct peace talks between the US and the Taliban little prospect of a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan at present. While President Trump has recently said that terrorist groups in the country are being hit "more severely than they have ever been hit", the US mortality rate is continuing to rise, as is the civilian charge.
The Taliban and other militant groups are expected to intensify their attacks as Afghanistan prepares to hold national elections this weekend.
CBS News correspondent Charlie D & # 39; Agatha, and CBS News' Ahmad Mukhtar and Sami Yousafzai contributed to this report.