JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Oct 25, (Agencies): Afghan officials launched an investigation Wednesday into claims at least 14 civilians were killed in a military ground operation targeting the Islamic State group in their stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.
Following Tuesday night’s raid by Afghan special forces in Rodat district of Nangarhar province, scores of protesters temporarily blocked a major highway linking Afghanistan and Pakistan to demand action against those responsible for the attack.
Sultan Mohammad, who was among the protesters, told AFP 14 people were killed in the operation and four others were wounded. Local elder Najibullah Amarkhil put the death toll slightly higher at 16, including women and children. “Government forces raided several houses – they killed 14 people, including a six-monthold baby,” Amarkhil told AFP, adding two more died from their wounds in hospital. Images posted on Tolo’s Twitter account purportedly showed dozens of men crowded around the bodies of victims under a tent next to the highway connecting the Nangarhar provincial capital of Jalalabad with Torkham, one of the major border crossings into Pakistan.
Provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani confirmed there had been casualties in the operation and said an official probe was under way. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the Alliance supports efforts to find a political and peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“We do not participate directly in peace talks but NATO allies provide support. Our most important contribution to the peace process is to send a clear message to Taleban and to other insurgents that they cannot win on the battlefield,” he told a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels today. In related development, the US Army says about 100 soldiers whose mission is to train and advise Afghan forces will return for three weeks in February. Gen Robert Abrams says the troops will help a new team of advisers learn the terrain as they start their nine-month tour.