Dozens of civilians have lost their lives as Afghan government forces accidentally opened fire on a wedding ceremony during a raid against a nearby Taliban hideout in the southern province of Helmand.
According to Reuters, local Afghan officials said the target of late Sunday’s raid was a house situated close to the wedding venue in Helmand’s Musa Qala district, adding that the site was was being used by the Taliban militants to train bombers.
“35 civilians were killed and 13 are injured. These people were attending a wedding party near the attack site in Khaksar area of Musa Qala district,” said Attaullah Afghan, a member of the Helmand provincial council member.
A second provincial council member, Abdul Majid, put the number of civilian fatalities at 40.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said 22 members of the militant group, including foreign nationals, were also killed and 14 others arrested during the operation.
It added that an investigation would be launched into the civilian deaths.
The Taliban also reported the incident, saying Afghan troops backed by US forces had carried out an overnight airstrike on the area, which was followed by clashes on the ground between the two sides.
The militant group also said in a statement that 18 Afghan soldiers had been killed in the fight.
Afghanistan continues to be plagued by militancy and violence more than 18 years into a US-led invasion of the country, with civilians being the main victims.
In July, the United Nations said civilians were being killed and wounded at a “shocking” level in Afghanistan. It said that at least 3,812 Afghan civilians had been killed or injured in the first half of 2019.
In recent weeks, there has been a sharp rise in violence across Afghanistan as people in the war-stricken country prepare to choose a new president on September 28.