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UN: US air strikes on alleged Afghan drug labs causes 39 civilian casualties

Strikes target Taliban drug labs (US Central Command/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A United Nations report says it has determined that 30 civilians were killed in U.S. air strikes on alleged drug-processing facilities in western Afghanistan four months ago.

The report published on October 9 said that five civilians were also wounded in air strikes on more than 60 sites. which U.S. forces identified as drug-production facilities in the Bakwa and neighboring Delaram districts.

UNAMA verified four additional civilian casualties but is still seeking to determine their current status as injured or killed, according to the document jointly produced by the UN mission and the UN Human Rights Office.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) immediately disputed the findings, insisting that its “precision” strikes in Farah and Nimroz provinces on May 5 “did not cause deaths or injuries to non-combatants.”

“In addition to imagery collection during the precision strikes, USFOR-A conducted exhaustive assessments of the facilities and surrounding areas after the strikes,” it said in a statement.

In a statement, UNAMA said it was also working to verify “credible reports of at least 37 additional civilian casualties, the majority of whom were women and children.”

“Although airstrikes on alleged drug-processing facilities had taken place before, this was the first time that UNAMA had received reports of a large number of civilian casualties resulting from such an operation,” it said.

The statement also said that although the United States considers economic facilities that contribute to the war effort as legitimate military targets, drug-processing units and workers associated with them “may not be lawfully made the target of attack and should be protected.”

“The United Nations maintains that considering these objects and individuals legitimate targets dangerously erodes the fundamental principle of distinction, placing the broader civilian population and infrastructure at risk,” it said.

Civilians bear the brunt of the 18-year war in Afghanistan, where 1,366 civilians have been killed and 2,446 others have been wounded in the first six months of the year, according to UNAMA.