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26 civilians, 26 Taliban reportedly killed in govt. raids in south, east

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AT-KABUL: A military ground and aerial operation and an ensuing clash reportedly killed at least 20 civilians and 26 Taliban-affiliated militants in Zurmat district of southeastern Paktia province, residents said on Friday.

Ground-based troops and airborne forces carried out an offensive in Sahak area on Thursday and went on hours-long clashes with Taliban insurgents, according to a resident of Shamolzai village. It is while security forces faced constant firing from the Taliban before the airstrike – which killed eleven civilians.

He further added that nine more civilians were killed by government forces in villages nearby Sahak area in operations that also left 26 Taliban gunmen dead.

Residents also claim that security forces had arrested some civilians.

District chief of Zurmat Hakim Waziri has also confirmed the killing of civiliansin the operations but had no exact figures.

Provincial officials said 32 Taliban gunmen were killed in the operations in Zurmat district while civilian casualties were being investigated.

The official said the civilians suffered casualties because the Taliban used their homes as bastions.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in a statement claimed 107 Taliban militants were killed and 25 others wounded in the operations in Zurmat district.

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected if the rebels used people’s homes as bastions for attacks on security forces. He said the government forces killed and wounded 35 civilians in Zurmat operations.He said a number of security forces sustained casualties in clashes with the Taliban in the district. He said two fighters were killed and three others wounded.

Another military operation of government forces in Nangarhar province in the east of Afghanistan has left six civilians dead, said provincial spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani. The military operation in Memle village in Khogyani district was aimed to decimate Taliban.

He made the remarks in a video message sent to media outlets on Friday.  He claimed that six civilians were killed and at least 18 vehicles were destroyed in the operation. In the footage, Khogyani shows vehicles and the area hit by an airstrike during the military operation of Afghan Special Force Unit. He also said that three suspects have been arrested by government forces during the operation.

A UN report in April showed that the organization documented 2,258 civilian casualties (763 deaths and 1,495 injured) for the period of 1 January to 31 March 2018. The report said during the first three months of 2018, anti-government elements caused 1,500 civilian casualties – a six percent increase from the same period last year. Consistent with trends observed in 2017, the report noted that civilian casualties attributed to pro-government forces in the first quarter of 2018 reduced by 13 percent to 407 civilian casualties.