A counterinsurgency airstrike in southern Afghanistan is reported to have left at least 12 government forces dead, including senior officers, sources told VOA.
The friendly fire incident happened Friday in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, where fighting has been raging after Taliban insurgents staged a major assault on government outposts a day earlier.
Provincial Governor Hayatullah Hayat told VOA that Afghan and U.S. forces were bombing insurgent positions in the district when a newly restored outpost in Sarband area was hit. He said the airstrike killed two officers and “a number of policemen,” but did not give any other figures.
The Helmand provincial police chief, Abdul Ghafar Safi, said Saturday that 12 Afghan National Police personnel were killed and two others wounded. Local media are reporting at least 15 dead.
Hayat said an investigation is under way to determine who was responsible for hitting the outpost.
U.S. military officials confirmed that local security personnel aligned with Afghan government forces were killed. Officials issued a statement calling the deaths “unfortunate” and pledged an investigation to “determine the specific circumstances that led to this incident.”
The deadly strike came after a Taliban suicide car bomb attack destroyed the same post just before the insurgents assaulted the district on Thursday.
The governor said the post was rebuilt and Afghan forces were redeployed just before it was bombed Friday afternoon.
Claims of bomber’s identity
Taliban sources, meanwhile, claimed that one of the three bombers who carried out Thursday’s suicide attack was the son of Hibattullah Akhundzada, the fugitive chief of the Islamist insurgency.
The sources identified the 22-year-old man as Abdul Rahman, saying he drove an explosives-packed Humvee into the Afghan forces’ post in Gereshk.
It was not possible to independently verify the claim, but Taliban sources say Rahman had recorded a video message before going on the suicide mission and it will be released when needed.
The Taliban controls several districts in Helmand, the largest Afghan province and a major poppy growing region.
Earlier this week, Afghan forces backed by U.S. air power and military advisers recaptured the Nawa district near the provincial capital of Lashkargah, nine months after the Taliban had overrun it.
The restive Afghan province borders Pakistan and Iran.