Air strikes by the US forces in Afghanistan have killed at least 13 civilians, residents and officials in the area have said.
The strikes happened in the Chardara district, a locality in which Afghan commandos, with advise from the American military and air support in the form of bomber planes, have been conducting operations for the past several days.
US forces struck Taliban hideouts overnight, and locals said that the fighters forced them in the morning to help retrieve the bodies of their comrades, when the air strikes resumed again.
“We are aware of the claims and are looking into them,” Tom Gresback, a spokesperson for the US military, said while talking to the media.
Afghan authorities denied that any civilian lives were lost, and a spokesperson for Afghan commandos, Ahmed Saved Salem, said that the strikes had killed 25 Taliban insurgents.
“Over the past three days of our operations in the village, we haven’t seen a single civilian,” Saleem said. “We have video of the eight people killed in the morning strikes, and all of them were armed.”
US-allied forces have been struggling to clear the city of Kunduz and its surrounding areas of insurgents ever since the Taliban briefly took control of the urban area a couple of years ago.
Back in 2015, American gunship helicopters had targetted a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the area, leveling the building to the ground and killing 42 people.
Last year, US bombers were involved in another deadly incident, and killied 33 civilians while trying to target Afghan militants.
US airs trikes have more than doubled since Donald Trump assumed office as American President, and announced his new strategy for the South Asian region in August.
About 900 munitions have been dropped on the country by the United States Air Force to date, compared to about 260 for the same period last year.
Some officials in the Afghan government have voiced their support for the new US strategy, saying that the air strikes help rein in the militants and decrease risks that they would attack cities and districts.
However, there are also those who claim that the civilian toll from the air operations is “unacceptably high”.
Residents of a village in Chardara district have said that Taliban targets in the area have been hit on numerous occasions ever since heavy fighting broke out between Afghan commandos and insurgents a few days ago.
“At night, they bombed many times in our area,” said Abdul Qayoum, a tailor in the village who lost three cousins in the airstrikes. “In the morning, after prayer, people got out to see what happened. My dad went, but I didn’t go. Then we heard another strike. When I came out, I saw people carrying bodies on carts.”
“They [Taliban] told us, and we had to [go collect bodies from overnight bombing], particularly when they said we are all Muslims and we can’t leave bodies lying out there,” Haji Mahmoud, a resident of the area, said.
“I saw three Taliban bodies. When the boys were trying to dig up those bodies, the plane struck again. Thirteen people were killed. I am wounded in my head and my arm.”