US drone strike kills 30 pine nut farm workers in Afghanistan, officials say

Jon Sharman
Injured men receive treatment at a hospital after a drone attack in Nangarhar, Afghanistan: AP

An American drone strike killed at least 30 workers on a pine nut farm who were resting after a day’s labour in the fields, Afghan officials have said.

The bombing, intended to hit an Isis hideout in Afghanistan, injured another 40 people on Wednesday night at Wazir Tangi in eastern Nangarhar province, three Afghan officials said.

The US military said it was trying to establish the identities of the people it killed.

“The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul said.

Afghanistan’s defence ministry and a senior US official in Kabul confirmed the bombing had taken place, but did not provide details of casualties.

Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, said: “US forces conducted a drone strike against Daesh terrorists in Nangarhar.

“We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.”

Some 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan nearly two decades after the 2001 war began, training Afghan security forces and launching counter-insurgency raids against Isis and the Taliban.

Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting and added that some were still missing, as well as those confirmed as dead and injured.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the provincial governor of Nangarhar, said at least nine bodies had been collected from the site.

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The American military estimates there are about 2,000 Isis fighters in Afghanistan, but their true numbers are difficult to calculate because they frequently change allegiances.

They first appeared in the country in 2014 and fight against the Afghan government, Taliban and US forces.

In a separate incident, at least 20 people died in a suicide truck bomb attack on Thursday carried out by the Taliban in the southern province of Zabul.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in fighting across Afghanistan after the collapse of US-Taliban peace talks this month. The Taliban has warned Donald Trump will regret his decision to abruptly end talks that could have brought the 18-year-old war to a close.

The United Nations said nearly 4,000 civilians had been killed or wounded in the first half of the year. That included a big increase in casualties inflicted by government and US-led foreign forces.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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