A senior US military commander in Afghanistan has tried to justify the massacre of Afghan civilians in the recent American drone bombing in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, insisting that Daesh terrorists were hiding among the farmers killed during the strike.
Citing unnamed US officials in Afghanistan, Reuters reported on Saturday that the deadly drone strike was carried out “solely to target” ISIL militants in a densely forested area in Wazir Tangi district of the province that is not inhabited by locals.
“There were ISIL (militants) there, but it appears during harvest season the locals cut deals with the IS fighters to act as harvesters,” said the report, quoting “a senior US official who is privy to the counter-terrorism operations conducted by American forces in Afghanistan.”
“We were not privy to this ‘agreement’ that puts them (ISIL terrorists) among other harvesters,” the American official further claimed, adding: “We are working through it now with the officials.”
The US drone attack on Wednesday night killed at least 32 farm workers and children while they were resting in tents after a day’s labor in pine nut fields at the mountainous area, local officials said, adding that the bombing raid also injured 40 others.
The owner of the fields said at least 150 workers were resting when the attack occurred, noting that many of them remained missing.
The American drone strike further outraged local residents in Nangarhar, who waged protest rallies against the US-led foreign and local forces and demanded Washington to apologize and pay compensation to the families of the victims.
Moreover, senior Afghan officials in Kabul also stated that a probe was being conducted to assess the intelligence failure prior to planning the deadly drone strike, indicating a joint effort with American military forces deployed to the country.
This is while Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani pledged to enforce measures to prevent civilian casualties in the war against militants during an election campaign rally in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
Nearly 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, to purportedly train and advise Afghan security forces and prepare them to take on Taliban and Daesh militants.
The latest US drone attack preceded another deadly attack by the Taliban insurgents, who killed at least 20 people in the southern Afghan province of Zabul.
Taliban have killed hundreds of civilians in clashes that followed the collapse of US-Taliban peace talks this month.
They have pledged to make the US president regret his decision to abruptly call off talks that were supposedly aimed at ending America’s longest-running war in its history.