US airstrike on Taliban prison kills 17 Afghan National Army soldiers

Published August 28th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT
smoke rises from an airstrike in the Helmand province. (AFP/File)
smoke rises from an airstrike in the Helmand province. (AFP/File)

Seventeen security personnel were among 32 people killed in US air strikes on a Taliban-run prison in the Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province, officials said on Saturday.

A day earlier, the Helmand governor and local security officials said all those killed in the airstrikes were militants. They vehemently denied casualties among security personnel and civilians.

But official at the Emergency Hospital in Lashkargah confirmed to Pajhwok Afghan News receiving three injured people, saying a dozen 12 bodies had been evacuated to Bost Hospital.

It was unclear whether the victims were civilians or Afghan forces, he said.

But Mohammad Nabi, an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier who was brought to the Emergency Hospital, said he had been serving with the 215th Maiwand Military Corps for the past nine months.

He said the Taliban captured him along with his six colleagues during a clash on the outskirts of Nad Ali district a month ago.

The airstrikes that took place on Thursday targeted a room where seven ANA soldiers, 11 policemen and eight civilians were held by Taliban. Eight militants guarded the cell, he said.

“One militant, a civilian and I were injured. All others in the room were killed in the bombardment,” he added. Thirty-four other soldiers were also in Taliban custody in Babaji area of Lashkargah.

Nabi said that one day ahead of the incident, the Taliban promised to release civilians and policemen from their prison, but the fate of the ANA soldiers was unknown because they belonged to other provinces.

Despite the Taliban were letting the prisoners for having their meal and offer their prayer, but they were torturing the inmates and abusing them, he said.

“Neither my family members nor our security officials have so far asked about our situation,” he added.

Omar Zwak, the governor’s spokesman, did not comment on the ANA soldier’s views. ANA’s statement representedits stance on the incident, he said. Local officials claimed 24 Taliban militants were killed in the strikes.

A resident of Nad Ali district, who wished not to be named, said they had retrieved the bodies of 27 people from the debris.

A provincial council member, Gul Agha Muslim, also said ANA soldiers, policemen and civilians held captive by Taliban were killed in the attack.

NATO Resolute Support (RS) said: “We don't know who this solider is, what he said, or where the picture is from.  We remain confident in our targeting process.  We had the opportunity to observe the compound and those in it prior to, during, and after the strike.”

Charlie Cleveland, RS deputy chief of staff, Communications, said in a statement: “We worked with our Afghan partners to confirm the target.  We remain confident that there were no civilians or detainees in the compound.  We would refer you to the MOD or the Provincial Governor for any additional information.”

But Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadisaid 22 Afghan security forces in their captivity and a number of militants were killed in the raids.

“Talks on releasing the captives were underway between local elders and Taliban and they were likely to be freed in the next few days,” he concluded.

By Zainullah Stanikzai

Copyright © Pajhwok Afghan News. All rights reserved.

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