Afghan forces' raid on Taliban allegedly kills civilians at wedding

Afghan forces' raid on Taliban allegedly kills civilians at wedding

Kabul, Afghanistan — Afghan officials said Monday that a number of civilians were killed during a raid on Taliban hideouts by Afghan special forces in the southern Helmand province. There were conflicting reports on the numbers of killed and wounded, but it is just the latest instance of purported civilian casualties blamed on the Afghan forces or their U.S.-led partners. 

Already 2019 has seen more civilian casualties blamed on those security forces than on the Taliban.

The U.S. military said 22 Taliban fighters were killed in the raid in the Taliban-controlled Musa Qala district of Helmand.

Omar Zwak, the provincial governor's spokesman, said 14 insurgents including six foreigners were killed, but he confirmed there were also reported civilian casualties that the governor's office was investigating.

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Zwak told CBS News that several suspected Taliban commanders and al Qaeda members were killed in the operation and that four people, including three women, were arrested.

Abdul Majid Akhundzada, a member of the provincial council in Helmand, told CBS News, however, that at least 35 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the operation as a wedding party taking place near the targeted building or buildings was caught up in the raid. He said the government had been told in advance that a wedding was taking place, but he did not deny that Taliban militants were known to operate in the area.

The U.S. military often accuses the Taliban of using human shields by operating in areas with a significant civilian presence.

Last week a U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar province, aimed at ISIS militants, purportedly left nine civilians dead. The U.S. military confirmed it was investigating the report of civilian casualties, but noted the U.S. was "fighting in a complex environment against those who intentionally kill and hide behind civilians, as well as use dishonest claims of non-combatant casualties as propaganda weapons."  

Nonetheless, with little hope for an imminent peace deal to end the war that began with the post 9/11 U.S. invasion to topple the Taliban in 2001, civilian casualties continue to mount — and continue to be blamed often on the country's own U.S.-backed security forces, or America itself.

Green Beret's death in Afghanistan comes amid increased Taliban violence

As CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reported last week, with President Trump's cancellation of direct peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, there is little prospect for any political resolution to the war in Afghanistan at present. While President Trump said recently that the terror groups in the country are being hit "harder than they have ever been hit before," the U.S. death toll continues to rise, and so does the civilian toll.

The Taliban and other militant groups were expected to step up their attacks as Afghanistan prepares to hold national elections this weekend.