The deployment of US ground troops into the Helmand Province in recent weeks, aimed at slowing the expansion of the Taliban in the area, has also put the US troops back in direct combat, and calling in air support during fights around populated areas. On Friday, this resulted in a large number of civilian deaths.
Locals from the village of Lakari, in the Sangin District, described heavy US airstrikes against the area surrounding the village mosque, from which the Taliban were believed to be operating. Instead of the mosque, however, the strikes leveled several homes, killing at least 22 civilians.
The village, not far from the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, is under Taliban control, and locals say many people had initially fled to the capital months ago, but returned when the Taliban started attacking the capital as well.
US officials shrugged off the report, promising a “formal review of the credibility” of the allegations, but insisting there was “no conclusive evidence” of any civilian deaths, despite multiple witnesses describing attending a large number of funerals since the Friday strikes.
The provincial government is at this point backing the US, insisting that everyone killed was Taliban, and that they actually killed around 60. Local elders, however, say a number of the slain were women and children, and that the victims were largely members of just two families whose houses were destroyed.