Afghan officials: 40 civilians killed in anti-Taliban raid

Afghan officials: 40 civilians killed in anti-Taliban raid
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A raid by Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes in southern Afghanistan against the Taliban killed at least 40 civilians, Afghan officials reported, according to The Associated Press.

The civilians killed in the raid were attending a wedding party in the Helmand province, according to the AP.


Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said the government was "saddened" to hear about the casualties despite what he said had been repeated calls for extra cautions, according to the news service.

Sediqqi said the provincial governor of Helmand has been told to deploy an investigative team to the site of the deaths.

The raid was the second of two launched in different parts of the town of Musa Qala in the southern province. Collectively, the raids killed 22 Taliban fighters, according to Afghan officials, who said 14 people were also arrested, including five Pakistani nationals and one Bangladeshi national, according to the AP.

The civilian deaths are likely to heighten tensions following reports last week that a U.S. drone strike killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens of others. The AP said that strike, which U.S. forces said was targeting Islamic State militants, mostly ended up killing and wounding civilians.

Afghanistan is scheduled to hold presidential elections Saturday, but the Taliban, which holds the greatest amount of territory since the 2001 U.S. invasion that removed them from power, has warned that the polls will be a target for violence.