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Afghan Air Strike Hits Civilians As Taliban Ramps Up Attacks

An Afghan soldier stands guard at a military base as soldiers prepare for an operation to recapture the military base that Taliban have overrun. (file photo)

An Afghan air strike on an abandoned army base captured by the Taliban has killed multiple civilians in southern Helmand as heavy fighting was reported across the war-torn country.

There were conflicting reports about the early June 4 air strike and number of casualties in the Nahr Saraj district, located along a highway linking the cities of Kandahar and Herat.

The Afghan army said some civilians were killed and wounded when they joined the Taliban while the militants were looting weapons and ammunition from a base.

The statement said at least 20 Taliban were killed but did not say how many civilians died.

The Taliban claimed as many as 30 civilians died.

Both the Taliban and Afghan government regularly blame each other for attacks on civilians.

The Taliban said they overran the Afghan army base, the latest setback for government forces as insurgents press attacks in multiple parts of the country.

The spiraling violence and stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Western-backed government in Kabul have cast further uncertainty over the future of the country once U.S.-led international forces leave by September.

Taliban militants captured two more districts in two different provinces on June 4, adding to recent military gains.

After a week of heavy fighting, the militants took control of Shenkai district in southern Zabul Province, local officials said.

The Gizab district of southern Uruzgan Province also came under Taliban control after hard fighting, according to local officials.

There was also heavy fighting reported in the southern province of Herat.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, TOLO, and RFE/RL's Afghan Service
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