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At Least 50 People Killed In Air Strike, Car Bombing In Afghanistan

Damaged vehicles are seen at the site of a car bombing in Qalat, capital of Zabul Province, on September 19.
Damaged vehicles are seen at the site of a car bombing in Qalat, capital of Zabul Province, on September 19.

At least 50 people have been killed in an air strike and a car bombing in Afghanistan, as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad prepares to brief U.S. lawmakers on his peace talks with the Taliban.

The September 19 incidents come after the collapse of negotiations between Washington and the militants and just days ahead of a presidential election.

Officials said at least 30 civilians were killed and 40 wounded in a U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan, while at least 20 people were killed and almost 100 wounded in a car bombing in the south.

The air strike was aimed at destroying a hideout used by Islamic State militants, but it accidentally targeted farmers near a field, Afghan officials were quoted as saying.

“On yet another deadly day in Afghanistan, once again it is civilians who bear the brunt of the violence involving armed groups, the Afghan government, and their backers in the U.S. military,” Amnesty International said in statement.

“That a U.S. drone strike purportedly targeting IS militants could instead result in the deaths of scores of farmers is unacceptable and suggests a shocking disregard for civilian life,” said Daphne Eviatar, the director of the Security with Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA.

Eviatar called on U.S. forces to “ensure that all possible precautions are taken to avoid civilian casualties” in military operations in Afghanistan.

Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in eastern Nangarhar Province, said a drone strike killed 30 workers in a pine-nut field and at least 40 others were injured.

Attullah Khogyani, a spokesman for Nangarhar's governor, told RFE/RL the air strike occurred in the Khogyani district. "There are fears civilians are among the dead, and we are carrying out an investigation to identify the bodies," he said.

The Afghan Defense Ministry and a U.S. military spokesman confirmed the strike, but did not share casualty details immediately.

“U.S. forces conducted a drone strike against [IS] terrorists in Nangarhar," said Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. "We are aware of allegations of the death of noncombatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts."

Meanwhile, officials said a Taliban car-bomb attack in Zabul Province killed at least 20 people and wounded 97 on September 19.

The attack targeted an intelligence-services building in the city of Qalat and also hit the city hospital, Rahmatullah Yarmal, the provincial governor, told RFE/RL.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said his group was responsible for the attack.

Officials told Tolo News that "ambulances have also been called from Kandahar city to transfer the wounded to hospitals in Kandahar Province. Most of the victims have been taken to private hospitals."

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) denounced the “disproportionate and indiscriminate” Taliban attack, saying it caused “extensive damage to a nearby hospital with terrible harm to health workers and patients inside.”

Two recent attacks claimed by the militants killed at least 48 people in Afghanistan, although Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator, told the BBC on September 18 that the "doors are open" to a resumption of talks to end the 18-year war.

Taliban negotiators have refused to talk directly with the government in Kabul, labeling them as "puppets" of the West.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, is due to brief a House of Representatives committee on peace negotiations.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee said that Khalilzad will hold a classified briefing for the entire panel early on September 19.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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