At least 20 Afghan civilians, including 12 children, were killed in an airstrike that was meant to target a Taliban commander in the eastern province of Kunar late on Friday, local officials said.
The strike, against a local Taliban commander named Sharif Mawiya, was the latest in a series of operations targeting senior insurgent field commanders, includ- ing the shadow governor of the strategic southern province of Helmand, who was killed on December 2.
The attacks came even as Pakistan, Afghanistan and China on Saturday agreed to boost mutual cooperation in combating all terrorist groups and individuals without any discrimination to eliminate terrorism from the region.
Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmoud Qureshi, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Afghanistan's foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani met in Kabul for the 2nd Pakistan-China-Afghanistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers' dialogue during which they discussed trade, development, ways to end Afghanistan's 17-year war and regional cooperation.
Several Taliban military commanders have been killed since the beginning of the month by Afghan forces, backed by American advisers and air power but the tactic has also increased the risk of civilian casualties.
Abdul Latif Fazly, a member of the provincial council, said that eight women and 12 children were killed and more than 15 civilians wounded in the incident.
Kunar governor Abdul Satar Mirzakwal said an operation by Afghan forces in Sheltan district killed 38 Taliban and al-Qaida members, including four foreign nationals, and wounded 12 more.
He said the operation targeted Sharif Mawiya, a commander believed to be a facilitator with Al Qaeda militants.
He said an unknown number of civilians were hit in the airstrike but had no casualty details.
"We know that a number of civilians, including women and children have been killed but we are sending a fact finding team," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Nato-led Resolute Support mission said it had not carried out any airstrikes in Kunar at the time of the incident.
No comment was immediately available from the defence ministry.
The number of Afghan civilians killed in US and Afghan airstrikes has risen sharply this year as Western-backed forces have stepped up aerial operations with the aim of forcing the Taliban to agree to peace talks .
According to UN figures, 313 civilians were killed and 336 wounded in airstrikes by US and Afghan forces in the nine months to the end of September, a 39% increase from the same period in 2017. agencies