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Mortar Attack Kills 9 Afghan Civilians at Mosque

Officials in Afghanistan say at least nine civilians were killed and six more wounded when a mortar shell fired by Afghan national security forces hit a mosque on Friday.

In another development, U.S. and local forces jointly assaulted a Taliban-held prison in a volatile southern region and freed more than 40 Afghan security personnel.

The incident involving the mortar attack took place in the central Maidan Wardak province during clashes with Taliban insurgents, provincial Deputy Governor Zakir Hussain told VOA.

More civilian injuries

Authorities in neighboring Ghazni province also reported that at least 11 civilians, including nine children, were wounded when their house was hit by a rocket allegedly fired by Taliban insurgents.

They say three children have sustained serious injuries and have been taken to a hospital in the capital, Kabul.

The United Nations said civilian casualties in Afghanistan have spiked in the first half of this year.

The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities to many parts of the country, taking advantage of the draw-down of NATO forces. Fighting continues in several Afghan provinces despite the onset of winter.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said Friday that Special Forces soldiers in a joint operation with Afghan partners successfully freed 40 Afghan security personnel from a Taliban prison.

Freed prisoners

It said the helicopter assault mission was conducted Thursday night in the Nawzad district of southern Helmand province.

“After securing the prison, Afghan forces freed more than 40 prisoners comprised of Afghan Police, Afghan National Army and Afghan Border Police members,” the U.S. military said.

It added that the liberated prisoners were released to Afghan Ministry of Defense authorities to receive medical care. The military said information about their initial capture by insurgents is not known.

The Taliban has yet to comment on the U.S. prison assault.

The Taliban seized control of the Nawzad district a few weeks back, while fighting has also been raging in at least two other districts in Helmand.