JALALABAD, Afghanistan/KABUL (Reuters) – Twelve days forward of the pine-nut harvest season, the governor of Afghanistan’s jap Nangarhar province acquired a letter from village elders within the Wazir Tangi space about their plans to recruit 200 laborers and youngsters to pluck the dry fruit.
FILE PHOTO: Afghans work on a pine nuts subject in Jalalabad province October 10, 2012. REUTERS/Parwiz/File Picture
The letter, seen by Reuters and dated Sept. 7, was despatched in an effort to assist defend laborers from getting caught in clashes between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and Islamic State fighters within the mountainous terrain largely managed by the jihadists.
Taliban insurgents and Islamic State fighters have been battling one another for management of the province’s pure sources. U.S. and Afghan forces routinely launch air strikes to regain management over territory misplaced to militant teams.
On Wednesday, simply hours after farmers, laborers and youngsters completed their day’s work of plucking pine nuts within the closely forested space and lit bonfires close to their tents, a U.S. drone hit the location, killing 30 civilians and injuring 40 others, in accordance with three Afghan provincial officers.
Native residents expressed shock and anger that the assault occurred regardless of the letter and subsequent assurances of security for the employees.
“We had huddled collectively round small bonfires and we had been discussing the safety scenario in our villages, however out of the blue the whole lot modified. There was destruction in all places,” mentioned Akram Sultan, one of many survivors who hid behind a tree earlier than working into the forest together with some kids.
Sultan was amongst 200 Afghan farm laborers employed to reap and shell pine nuts on land belonging to a number of village elders within the Wazir Tangi space. As much as 23,000 tons of pine nuts are produced annually in Afghanistan and the nation has begun exporting as much as $800 million value of the crop to China yearly by means of an air hall.
Earlier than recruitments began for the harvesting, village elders had sought clearances from the provincial governor and native leaders of the Islamic State fighters to make sure the exercise may very well be carried out within the closely contested space.
“The warring sides had given their consent and contractors had been employed to herald laborers from neighboring provinces … no criminality was being pursued, however even then, the U.S. drone killed harmless individuals,” Sohrab Qadri, a member of the Nangarhar provincial council, advised Reuters.
A spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan confirmed on Thursday that the drone strike was performed by the US with the intention of destroying the hideouts of Islamic State fighters.
Requested in regards to the letter despatched to the governor by the village elders, Colonel Sonny Leggett mentioned that will be a part of the investigation.
“Preliminary indications are members of Daesh (IS) had been amongst these focused within the strike,” Leggett mentioned, utilizing a time period for Islamic State. “Nevertheless, we’re working with native officers to find out whether or not there was collateral harm.”
The governor of Nangarhar, Shah Mahmood Miakhel, was not obtainable for remark.
There was no remark from Islamic State or details about casualties it sustained within the drone strike. The U.S. official didn’t touch upon casualty figures.
‘HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO US?’
Malak Khaiyali Khan, chief of Jaora village within the Wazir Tangi space, had despatched his teenage son together with three pals to shell pine nuts.
On Thursday night, 4 our bodies had been handed over to Khan, together with that of his son.
“My son and his pals had been killed by the People. How may they do that to us?” mentioned Khan, who was main a protest in opposition to the strike earlier than the burial rites.
Offended residents took our bodies to the provincial capital, Jalalabad, on Thursday morning to protest the assault.
The U.N. Help Mission in Afghanistan mentioned in its newest report that floor raids and clashes have induced essentially the most civilian casualties within the nation, adopted by bomb assaults and air strikes.
Air strikes by U.S. and Afghan forces killed 363 civilians and injured 156 others in Afghanistan within the first half of this yr, the U.N. report mentioned. Among the many useless and wounded had been 150 kids, it added.
Nangarhar province suffered the best variety of civilian casualties final yr. A U.N. report mentioned a minimum of 681 civilians died within the province in suicide assaults, landmine blasts and air strikes.
The province has massive deposits of minerals and sits on main smuggling routes into Pakistan.
Reporting by Ahmad Sultan and Mohammad Rafiq in Jalalabad and Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul; Extra reporting and writing by Rupam Jain in Kabul; Enhancing by Peter Cooney