At least 50 senior Taliban leaders were killed last week in a rocket artillery strike during a meeting in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a U.S. military official said.
“We think the meeting was to plan next steps,” said Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for the U.S.-led Coalition in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.
The meeting took place in Helmand’s district of Musa Qala on May 24 and included a number of senior Taliban commanders from several Afghanistan provinces, the U.S. military said.
US military: More than 50 Taliban leaders attending a high-level Taliban meeting were killed during a HIMARS strike (four rockets) that destroyed a known Taliban command and control node in Musa Qal’ ah, May 24.
— cbsMcCormick (@cbsMcCormick) May 30, 2018
The strike comes amid the Taliban’s recent launch of its annual spring offensive.
“It’s certainly a notable strike,” O’Donnell continued, adding that a number of other Taliban commanders had been killed in U.S. airstrikes in a 10-day period.
The Taliban denied the report and said that only five civilians in two civilian houses were killed.
“This was a civilian residential area, which had no connection with the Taliban,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in a statement.
The United States has upped military pressure against the Taliban in recent months in an effort urging Taliban leadership to enter peace talks with the Afghan government.
Last week, Army Lt. Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller was nominated by President Trump to succeed Army Gen. John Nicholson as the next commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Since 2016, Miller has been serving as the commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command.