Witnesses of an alleged US airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province told RT that at least 10 civilians, including five children, were killed and a woman was crippled in the raid which Pentagon claims had “zero chance” of hurting civilians.
Mohammad Khan, a witness of the attack in the Haska Mena district in the Nangarhar Province, allegedly carried out by a US aircraft on Thursday evening, told RT’s Ruptly video agency that he saw 11 people being transported in a vehicle following the airstrike. Of these, 10 died as result of the US airstrike and a woman was severely wounded, he said, adding that “her legs were torn off.”
The bombing was so intense it carved out an impact crater 15 meters wide and 5 meters deep, Khan said, adding that he saw the aftermath of the strike with his own eyes.
“[A] total of 10 civilians were killed and one wounded in one vehicle. The attack was carried out by jet aircrafts,” he said.
While there have been conflicting reports as to the number of people that lost their lives due to the strike, the district authorities confirmed that the attack was carried out by US warplanes and targeted civilians.
Haska Mina Governor Saaz Wali Shinwarit said that the airstrike hit a private vehicle carrying civilians, adding that at least 11 people, all of them hailing from one family, died on the spot and another one was injured.
The bodies of the victims were damaged so severely that they “were beyond recognition,” he said as cited by AFP.
“They were placed inside sacks and were buried late last night.”
Meanwhile, the spokesman for Nangarhar Governor Attaullah Khogyani said that while the strike did result in victims among the civilian population, it was too early to speak about the exact death toll. Afghan TOLO News, citing sources, reported that at least 16 people were killed in the bombing.
Prayers for the dead were held in the Chaparhar district on Friday. Children whose parents died in the attack were among those taking part in the service.
“My two brothers, my mother and a sister were killed,” a girl told Ruptly.
“I lost my father and mother,” a boy said.
Commenting on its reported culpability in the death of civilians, United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) rejected the allegations, referring to them as “the second false claim of civilian casualties in the same district within the last three weeks.”
The US mission insisted that its warplanes could not mistake the civilian vehicle for one harboring militants. Prior to the strike the vehicle was placed under surveillance during which “the militants were observed loading weapons in the vehicle,” the mission said, adding that any chance of collateral damage was ruled out to the max as the sortie was executed “in the middle of open terrain.”
“There was zero chance of civilian casualties,” USFOR-A spokesman Bob Purtiman said in a statement on Friday.
According to Purtiman, the mission had been proved to be a success and led to the annihilation of “a number of militants” and their vehicle.
Reports of civilian casualties from an allegedly misguided US airstrike in the same area came on July 24, with local residents saying that majority of the victims were civilians who gathered to a prayer ceremony. An MP from Nangarhar, Esmatullah Shinwari, said at the time that at least 8 people were killed and 10 wounded as result of the attack, while urging to halt indiscriminate bombings, according to TOLO News.
While police pledged to look into the reports of civilian casualties, they said that most of the victims were Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists.
This time, the Afghan military also appeared to be skeptical about the reports, with Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry, saying that the strike was a coordinated effort of the Afghan and a foreign military and led to the death of “five insurgents.” He promised, however, that the authorities will send a delegation to the area to scrutinize reports on the ground.
In April, the US dropped “The Mother of All Bombs,” also known as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) on the neighboring district of Achin. Although the bomb was said to kill over 90 IS fighters, its use has sparked a debate, with some blaming Washington for disproportionate use of force. The impact from the bomb reportedly affected nearby villages causing destruction to homes.