15 civilians killed in yesterday drone strike in Khost
KHOST CITY (Pajhwok): Fifteen civilians were also killed in Friday’s drone strike that targeted the burial ceremony for a slain Taliban commander in the Alisher district of southeastern Khost province, a lawmaker and residents said on Saturday.
Dozens of people were burying the slain rebel commander after offering his funeral prayers in the Bati Thanai area near the Durand Line on Friday when a US drone struck them at about 1:30pm.
Local officials said 34 militants were killed in the strike and there was no civilian among the dead. But residents said the dead included some Kuchi tribesmen.
Haidar Jan Naeemzoy, who heads the lower house commission on tribal affairs, told Pajhwok Afghan News 15 members of two families had been killed in the drone strike. They all were civilians, he insisted.
He said the slain civilians included a father and four sons and one grandson. The second family lost the father, his two sons and two nephews, Naeemzoy said.
He said the victims were returning from the funeral prayer for a tribal elder in two pick up vehicles when came under attack.
The lawmaker said the incident took place in the area where the US had swapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban as a prisoner of war for almost five years.
Naeemzoy said they were ready to take media representatives and people to the drone attack site in order to ascertain the facts, rejecting the claim that 35 militants had been killed in the drone attack.
Showing pictures of the slain individuals to Pajhwok Afghan News, the MP said he had strongly condemned the incident during today’s Wolesi Jirga session and that a delegation would visit Khost province soon to investigate the incident.
A tribal elder in Babrak Thanai area, Ramazan Kuchi, said the drone hit two vehicles carrying local Kuchi tribesmen after attending the funeral prayer for an elder.
He said 14 people were killed in the attack and all were local Kuchi tribesmen, denying the presence of the Taliban in the area.
A government official in Khost, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had received reports about civilian casualties in the drone strike.
He said since it was difficult to send a team to the area for investigation due to security concerns, the number of civilians killed could not be verified.
But he said a Taliban commander, Behram Kuchi, were among those killed in the drone strike. He said Behram Kuchi had been involved in a series of attacks on security forces.
The Taliban in an email to media organisations said more than 20 civilians had been killed in the drone strike.
In Kabul, the Resolute Support Mission media office said American forces had attacked armed militants in Khost, inflicting casualties on them. It said reports about civilian casualties were being investigated.
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