Local officials and elders in Afghanistan said U.S. airstrikes had killed at least 17 civilians on Thursday, contradicting Pentagon claims that only militants had been hit and fomenting continued “destruction and anger.”
The New York Times reported that Hajji Muhammad Hasan, a former senator from the Gomal District in Paktika Province, said three drones had hit the area of Nematabad on Wednesday, killing a local elder on his way to mediate a land dispute.
The elder, Hajji Rozuddin, was “strongly anti-Taliban,” Hasan told the Times. “The car was completely destroyed, and there was little of the bodies left.”
A second and third strike soon after killed an additional five people who had arrived on the scene. Shaista Khan Akhtarzada, the district governor of Gomal, said an investigation team had determined those killed were civilians.
Following news of the strikes, peace activists in the U.S. called for an end to the aerial war in Afghanistan. One such activist was Mary Anne Grady Flores, a grandmother of three who was recently released from 49 days in jail for charges that stemmed from her 2014 arrest during an anti-drone protest at a New York air base.
“The U.S. military killed an elder in Afghanistan on his way to mediate a land dispute,” Flores said Friday. “Then drone pilots carried out a triple tap—targeting first responders…then the next three who came to help.”
“It’s obvious that the actions of our government are just creating more destruction and anger,” Flores said. “We citizens must stop U.S. state sponsored terror through the use of killer drones.”
Flores was arrested while photographing eight Catholic drone protesters outside the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Mattydale, New York, which prosecutors said violated a protection order that barred activists from going near Col. Earl Evans and his workplace. Drone missions are operated out of Hancock.