On January 9, Saturday, the Afghan military carried out an airstrike in Khashrod district of southern Nimrud province, killing at least 18 civilians of the same family, as per reports. Locals claim that the airstrike hit a house owned by a farmer in Munazari village. This has led to protests in the region against the growing number of attacks on civilians.
Military officials claimed a day later that the airstrike had targeted Taliban insurgents. However, local authorities, including chairman of the Nimroz Provincial Council Baz Mohammad Nasi, refuted the claims by the military and maintained that the airstrike had killed and injured civilians. The Ashraf Ghani-led government has started an investigation in the matter. On Monday, president Ghani expressed grief over the deaths of the civilians.
Taliban spokesperson Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said in a statement that no Taliban fighter was present in the house when the attack took place. He claimed that “the owner of the house is not a member of the Taliban.”
Previously, on January 6, an airstrike in Helmand province had killed at least five members of a single family. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission immediately released a statement saying “a house was hit in an aerial raid on the Taliban in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand, killing five civilians, including three children, and injuring five others.”
According to the report “Afghanistan’s Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Aistrikes” which was released last month, “the Afghan Air Forces have killed 70 civilians and injured 90 others” between July and September last year.
The report also noted that three children were killed last October in an airstrike led by the allied forces against Taliban fighters. 12 children were also killed when US forces carried out an attack on a religious school on October 22.
While such attacks have declined after the US and Taliban reached an agreement in late February 2020, a growing number of airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force resulting in civilian casualties have raised concerns. As per a report compiled by Brown University, “in the first six months of 2020, the Afghan Air Forces (have) killed 86 Afghan civilians and injured 103.”