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Officials say US drone strike killed 10 civilians in Western Afghanistan

An Air Force MQ-1 Predator prepares to land Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, on Friday, June 2, 2006. The 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Flight provides the launch and recovery element for all Predator missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. David Kurle)

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

A U.S. drone strike earlier this month in the western Afghan province of Herat that apparently targeted a militant group also killed at least 10 civilians, including three women and three children, an Afghan rights official and a council member said on January 22.

The Afghan official said the strike took place in the district of Shindand on January 8. Five other civilians, including two children, were wounded, said the official, who is on Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The Afghan military and U.S.-led forces did not immediately comment. But provincial council member Wakil Ahmad Karokhi said the strike also killed 16 militants from a Taliban splinter group, including its commander, known as Mullah Nangyalia.

The commander’s funeral the following day was held in the Herat provincial capital’s Guzargah neighborhood, and was attended by dozens of militants.

Karokhi said the attack was a “huge mistake” because Mullah Nangyalia’s group had been a useful buffer against the Taliban in Shindand, taking up arms with his fighters against the insurgents “when no one else would do it” and leaving the area’s civilians in peace.

The Taliban controls nearly half of Afghanistan, and continue to launch attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, even as it has given U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad a document outlining an offer for a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan.