July 22, 2019 / 11:15 AM / a month ago

Afghan forces kill seven civilians in attack on militants

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan government forces mistakenly killed seven civilians, including children, in an attack on militants south of the capital, a provincial official said on Monday, the latest victims of a war undiminished by peace talks.

Government forces, have been facing Taliban attacks across much of the country, and have responded with air strikes aimed at killing insurgent leaders, even as U.S. and Afghan representatives have been negotiating with the militants in Qatar.

The seven civilians, including women and children, were killed in Logar province, just south of Kabul, on Sunday night said Hasib Stanekzai, a member of Logar’s provincial council. Six people were wounded, he said.

Provincial police confirmed the attack on militants by government forces but said they were investigating the casualties.

“According to our initial information a number of militants were killed or wounded, but local people gathered in the area, claiming that a house belonging to a Kuchi family had been bombed, causing civilian casualties,” said Shahpor Ahmadzai, a spokesman for Logar police.

Kuchi are nomadic herders, but some now live in permanent settlements.

Ahmadzai, who said police were investigating, also said foreign force were involved in the attack on the militants. Officials with Afghanistan’s NATO force were not immediately available to confirm or deny their involvement in the operation.

Afghan forces, backed by U.S. advisers, have in recent months stepped up their air strikes and raids to the highest levels since 2014.

The latest phase of Afghanistan’s war - which began when U.S.-backed forces the overthrew the Taliban following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States - has intensified despite the most sustained peace talks of the war.

The United Nations has repeatedly expressed concern about civilian casualties, which reached their highest level last year since detailed accounting began nearly a decade ago.

The war claimed 3,804 civilian lives in 2018, that included 927 children, both figures all-time highs, representing an 11% increase in civilian deaths compared with 2017, U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in February.

Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Robert Birsel

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