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HRW Calls For Probe After Reports Afghan Forces Killed 20 Civilians

FILE: Afghan special forces take part in a military exercise in November 2017.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded a joint investigation by the Afghan government and U.S. military into alleged summary executions by special forces linked with Kabul's intelligence service, a statement by the watchdog said February 21.

Members of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) killed 20 civilians in an operation in the southern Kandahar Province last month, HRW said in its statement.

The watchdog reported that special forces shot and killed civilians who were fleeing U.S. air strikes against insurgents in the Band-e Timor area of the Maiwand district and the Reg area of the Panjwai district.

An eyewitness who spoke to HRW by phone said the security forces shot people as they "were running away" when the airplanes came.

The watchdog also alleged security force members "dragged some men from their homes and then shot them."

Fifty Taliban members were also killed, the report said.

HRW said the killings might be in retaliation for recent attacks by the Taliban throughout the country, including two strikes in Kabul last month that killed scores of people.

HRW said the operation was led by the police chief of Maiwand who reports to Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq, who has been accused of human rights violations in the past.

A United Nations annual report on civilian casualties released last week said operations by the NDS special forces caused 61 civilian deaths and 25 injuries in 12 months.

The UN has warned that special forces appear to operate outside the NDS chain of command, "resulting in a lack of clear oversight and accountability."

With reporting by dpa