JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Government officials on Sunday provided different accounts about casualties after a US drone struck participants of a prayer service in the Haska Mena district of eastern Nangarhar province.
The airstrike took place this afternoon in Mianji Baba village of Mariz Kandaw area of the district after Daesh militants fired at security forces from nearby homes.
An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the casualty toll from the airstrike had climbed and could further rise.
He said so far six bodies had been recognized and a search in this regard was underway. He confirmed sustaining injuries by six people, including three children and one woman, in the strike.
He said a service member of the Afghan army’s engineering unit was also injured in the incident. However, he did not elaborate.
He said the drone strike hit a crowd of people and casualties could increase until Monday morning.
Meanwhile, Nangarhar governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said 25 Daesh affiliates, including three group leaders, were killed and 15 more wounded in air and ground operations in Haska Mena.
He said the joint operations were carried out in the district’s Rokhana, Chaharwza, Dand Khana, Maiz and Mianji Baba areas, but the forces came under attack from Daesh militants in the Mianji Baba area.
He said the Daesh gunmen were firing at security forces from civilian homes using heavy and light weapons. He said the Daesh militants suffered casualties in retaliatory attacks.
Nangarhar public health director Dr. Najibullah Kamawal said eight injured people had been brought to the civil hospital in Jalalabad from Haska Mena district.
He said one of them was discharged after treatment and seven remained hospitalized, including six women.
One of the injured persons, Chaman Gul, from his hospital bed said the airstrike took place when people were attending a prayer service for a deceased tribal elder, Haji Aman.
He said a large number of people were in attendance, but he did not know how many suffered casualties in the strike.
Earlier, Haska Mena district administrative chief, Sazoli Shinwari, told Pajhwok Afghan News the incident took place in Mariz Kandaw area around 3pm today.
He said the payer ceremony for the deceased local tribal elder was being offered when all of a sudden an unmanned aircraft fired missiles at the participants.
Sixteen Daesh or so-called Islamic State (IS) rebels and eight civilians including children were killed and a number of people were injured in the strike, he said. Daesh militants were firing at security forces from homes near the funeral and the drone targeted them, Shinwari said.
Sayed Shinwari, a resident of the area, said his uncle and one of his cousins were killed in the drone strike and a number of people were still believed to be buried under rubble.
NATO’s Resolute Support (RS) mission spokesman Bill Salvin in a statement said they were aware of the report regarding civilian casualties in Nangarhar. “We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and we will convene an inquiry to investigate.”
He confirmed the airstrike but said it was against armed insurgents. “We have no indications that civilians were in the area either before the strike or after the strike,” the spokesman said. “However, we will investigate the allegation.”