At least 34 Taliban insurgents have been killed in Afghanistan’s southeastern Khost province in a U.S. drone attacked a funeral ceremony held for a slain Taliban commander Friday, Afghan authorities said.
According to Afghan officials, the incident happened at 1.30 p.m. (0900GMT) Friday in the Alishir district in Khost province near the border with Pakistan.
“The incident has taken place few kilometers from the border line with Pakistan. The majority of the insurgents killed in the airstrike had crossed the border to attend the funeral ceremony,” a border police officer who declined to be named told Anadolu Agency. “All the bodies were collected by security forces and all of them were Taliban militants. There are no civilian casualties.”
He said the ceremony was held for a Taliban commander who was killed by Afghan security forces the previous day.
The Taliban group's self-proclaimed spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the incident but said all the victims were civilians who had attended the funeral.
“At least 20 civilians were killed when Americans conducted an air raid on a funeral ceremony held by nomads,” Mujahid said.
Haidar Naeemzoi, representative of nomads in the lower house of the national assembly, confirms the drone attack, and insists that all the victims were civilians.
“A U.S. drone attacked people who were returning from the cemetery. The plane targeted two vehicles killing at least 15 people on the spot,” Naeemzoi said.
Civilian casualties have been a frictional issue in relation between the Afghan government and U.S.-led coalition forces based in Afghanistan after the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.
Mohammad Yaqub Mandozai, provincial police security director, told Anadolu Agency that the U.S. air raid took place when Taliban were running away after fighting between frontier police forces and the insurgents who had crossed the border.
“I can confirm 34 militants were killed in the incident,” Mandozai said.
In a recent U.S. drone strike against Taliban militants, at least seven insurgents were killed Thursday in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
U.S.-led coalition forces have increased drone strikes against insurgents as Taliban militants have intensified their attacks as part of their spring offensive, which kicked off in April.
In 2015, Afghanistan has seen unprecedented violence from Taliban insurgents. The Afghan Ministry of Defense terms it as Taliban’s attempt to gain greater leverage in peace talks with the Afghan government expected to resume this summer.