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Taliban-Planted Bomb Kills Afghan Army General; Drone Strike Kills at Least 6 Civilians


Map showing Helmand province, Afghanistan
Map showing Helmand province, Afghanistan

Officials in southern Afghanistan say a bomb explosion Saturday killed a senior military commander and wounded at least three other people, including a local journalist.

Separately, an apparent drone attack in the southeast part of the country is said to have killed at least six civilians, including a newborn baby.

The Taliban took responsibility for the roadside bombing in Helmand province, where most of the districts are either controlled or influenced by the insurgent group.

The provincial police spokesman told VOA that Gen. Zahir Gul Muqbil, the commander of an army border unit, was heading to the volatile Marjah district along with a group of journalists to visit an ongoing counterinsurgency operation when the convoy struck a roadside bomb.

Mohammad Zaman Hamdard said the slain general was directing the military operation. He added three security personnel and a reporter with Afghanistan’s mainstream Shamshad TV, were among the wounded. The journalist, Sardar Mohamad Sarwary, is said to have received multiple injuries.

A Taliban statement said the attack also killed Muqbil’s two guards, though insurgent claims are often inflated.

Helmand is Afghanistan’s largest province and a major opium-poppy producing region.

International media watchdogs list Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

'Drone Strike Kills Civilians’

Meanwhile, local politicians and officials in southeastern Khost province confirmed Saturday a recent suspected drone strike in their area had killed at least six civilians, including a newborn baby.

Khost province and Helmand province, Afghanistan
Khost province and Helmand province, Afghanistan

A local tribal leader, Gul Marjan Farooqzoi, told VOA's Afghan service the victims are members of the same family and were traveling back from a hospital in the provincial capital when missiles fired from a pilotless aircraft hit their vehicle and destroyed it. He said two women and two children, including the infant, were among the dead.

Provincial government spokesman Talib Mangal confirmed that a vehicle had come under attack in the area “two days ago” but he shared no further details. Mangal said an investigation into the incident was still underway but he would not say whether the attack was carried out by Afghan forces or their International partners.

Last Sunday, an airstrike in the western Afghan province of Farah killed at least nine civilians and injured several others. The victims were leaving a mosque after offering evening prayers, according to relatives and residents.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) denounced the airstrike in Farah that it noted was reportedly conducted by foreign forces. The commission in its statement urged the warring sides to ensure protection of civilians under their international obligations.

Drone attacks are often carried out by U.S. forces as part of their counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan.

VOA was awaiting a response to its query via email from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul on whether the alliance had anything to do with the incidents in Khost and Farah.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the 18-year-old Afghan war. The United Nations has documented around 2,600 civilian deaths in the first nine months of 2019 while more than 5,600 civilians were injured.