16 civilians reported dead in U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan

Afghan officials said Friday that U.S. warplanes had killed 16 civilians as they tried to flee an area in eastern Afghanistan controlled by Islamic State militants.

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Afghan officials said Friday that U.S. warplanes killed 16 civilians as they tried to flee an area in eastern Afghanistan controlled by Islamic State militants.

Hajji Saz Wali, governor of Haska Meena district in the southern part of Nangarhar province, said the victims included women and children; eight were from one family, and four others from a second family. It was the second time since July 24 that an airstrike in that district killed civilians, according to Afghan officials.

The latest victims died Thursday afternoon when the vehicles they were traveling in were hit by U.S. airstrikes believed to be targeting Islamic State militants in the area, Wali said. It is not known how many were wounded, he added.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul said military officials were aware of the reports but would not comment immediately.

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Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, confirmed that casualties had occurred in the area but said that officials would release details later.

On July 24, Afghan officials said, nine civilians were killed in a U.S. airstrike on a prayer ceremony held in Haska Meena district by relatives of Islamic State members who had previously been killed. As the tempo of U.S. airstrikes continues at a rapid pace, there have been a number of such incidents in recent months.

Claims of civilian deaths from airstrikes have occurred this year in Kunduz in the north and in Helmand province in the south, often as a result of fighting in areas where it can be difficult to distinguish insurgents from civilians.

Haska Meena district, also known as Dih Bala district, is in a rugged area close to the border with Pakistan. The neighboring Achin district was long a stronghold of the Islamic State and was where the United States dropped the so-called mother of all bombs this year, the largest conventional bomb ever deployed, on a tunnel and bunker complex where insurgents had taken refuge.

That led Islamic State fighters to seek new refuge, including in the Tora Bora cave and tunnel complex in Nangarhar, which Osama bin Laden once used as a hideout. The Islamic State fighters are believed to be relatively few, and in the Nangarhar area they…

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