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At least 50 Taliban leaders killed in rocket artillery strike, US military says

U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, fire a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a truck mounted multiple-rocket launcher system, during exercise Steel Knight at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 13, 2012. The battalion conducted this historic live-fire exercise, simultaneously utilizing HIMARS, M777 Lightweight Howitzer and Expeditionary Fire Support System. This is the first time all three artillery weapons systems were fired during the same exercise. (DoD photo by LCpl Joseph Scanlan, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
May 30, 2018

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.

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.