At least seven civilians lost their lives in an airstrike in Burhani Khel village of Sayed Abad district of Maidan Wardak province, a number of residents claimed on Monday as Afghan government faces strong criticisms over a dramatic surge in civilian death and amid rising violence in multiple fronts across the country.
The residents said that seven people were returning from a funeral ceremony when their car was targeted by an airstrike in Burkhan Khel village in Sayed Abad district.
Some angry residents to the incident staged a protest to press the Afghan government to launch an investigation into the incident.
“They came here for a funeral ceremony. They ate food and wanted to return. Father, son, two sons-in-law, one guest and two children were among the seven people [killed in the airstrike],” said Hamed, a resident of Sayed Abad district.
“He was a driver. His son was a student, another was a laborer, another man was working in a company, one of them was his cousin and was a resident of Kabul. They all were here for a funeral ceremony,” said Basir, another resident of Sayed Abad.
“Either the government take Wardak out of the Afghanistan map or announce its enmity with us or consider us as their people,” said Khalil Rahman, a resident.
Previously, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense reported the killing of at least nine Taliban members in an airstrike in Maidan Wardak.
Also last week, a number of residents of Sayed Abad district who had taken some injured children to a hospital in Kabul said that two civilians were killed and eight others, most of them children, were wounded in an airstrike in Qala-e-Amir village which is located in Tangi area of the province.
Back in March, President Ashraf Ghani ordered the National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to abide by strict rules for preventing civilian casualties in their operations against militants. Despite that, several incidents that targeted the civilians were reported in various regions of the country.
On 19 July, in Bala Murghab district, Badghis province, pro-government forces conducted an airstrike that hit a residential home and resulted in the deaths of seven civilians, including three children and one woman, with three more civilians injured, including a baby.
Also on July 22, at least eight civilians were killed in an airstrike in the eastern province of Logar which was carried out by Afghan forces to target militants, a senior official from the province said.
Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan
On July 15, a senior official of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said that 596 civilians were killed and 1,892 others wounded in clashes between government forces and the Taliban and other attacks by militants in Afghanistan since the beginning of the current solar year which coincides with March 21, 2019.
The CEO of the AIHRC, Musa Mahmoodi, told TOLOnews that 733 of the victims are children who have either been killed or wounded in the conflicts during the period.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a quarterly report on April 24 that it has documented high levels of harm to civilians but adds that there has been a 23 percent decrease in overall civilian casualties as compared to the same period last year and is the lowest for a first-quarter since 2013.
The report says the UN documented 1,773 civilian casualties (581 deaths and 1,192 injured), including 582 child casualties (150 deaths and 432 injured) between January 1 and March 31.
In the first quarter of 2018, UNAMA documented 2,305 civilian casualties (799 deaths and 1,506 injured), including 609 child casualties (176 deaths and 433 injured), the report says.
The overall reduction of civilian casualties was driven by a decrease in civilian casualties by suicide improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, the report says.
UNAMA notes the particularly harsh winter conditions during the first three months of the year, which may have contributed to this trend, the report says.
It is unclear whether the decrease in civilian casualties was influenced by any measures taken by parties to the conflict to better protect civilians, or by the ongoing talks between parties to the conflict, the report mentions.