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Afghan Rights Group Probes Reports Of Civilians Killed During Anti-Taliban Operation

An Afghan human rights group says it is investigating the alleged killing of civilians during fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents in the eastern province of Khost.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) announced the launch of its probe on March 29 after a number of women, children, and other civilians were reported killed by Afghan special forces in Saberi district last week.

A video taken circulated on social media purportedly shows an old man from Saberi carrying a child’s lifeless body and claiming several members of his family were killed.

An unidentified official was quoted as saying that a pregnant woman and her unborn child were killed and four children wounded in an explosion inside a house.

Officials claimed the blast was due to explosives hidden by the Taliban, while the militant group accused pro-government forces of lobbing mortars at civilian houses.

Provincial Governor Mahmand Katawazi confirmed that an operation was ongoing in Saberi but denied any civilian casualties.

“All those videos and photos that are claiming to be of civilians, those are not true,” Katawazi said, adding that four members of the security force were wounded and several Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the government should stop such attacks if it seeks a reduction in violence. The Taliban has resisted agreeing to a cease-fire long sought by the government.

The Afghan special forces operate under Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security.

They have in the past been accused of repeated attacks on civilians and have been criticized by human rights activists and the United Nations for their heavy-handed tactics.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa