JALALABAD, Afghanistan ó Afghan officials said Friday that U.S. warplanes killed 16 civilians trying to flee an area in eastern Afghanistan controlled by Islamic State militants.
Hajji Saz Wali, governor of Haska Meena district in the southern part of Nangarhar province, said the victims included women and children; eight were from one family, and four others from a second family. It was the second time since July 24 that an airstrike in that district killed civilians, according to Afghan officials.
The latest victims died Thursday afternoon when the vehicles they were traveling in were hit by U.S. airstrikes believed to be targeting Islamic State militants in the area, Wali said. It is not known how many were wounded, he added.
A spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul said officials were aware of the reports but would not comment immediately.
Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, confirmed that casualties had occurred in the area but said that officials would release details later.
On July 24, Afghan officials said, nine civilians were killed in a U.S. airstrike on a prayer ceremony held in Haska Meena district by relatives of Islamic State members who had previously been killed. As the tempo of U.S. airstrikes continues at a rapid pace, there have been a number of such incidents in recent months.
Claims of civilian deaths from airstrikes have occurred this year in Kunduz in the north and in Helmand province in the south, often as a result of fighting in areas where it can be difficult to distinguish insurgents from civilians.
Casualties among Afghan civilians, especially women and children, have risen to a record this year, according to a recent U.N. report. Most of those deaths have been attributed to insurgents, particularly through suicide bombings, rather than to airstrikes and other pro-government actions, the report said.