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No official reports of civilian casualties in Kandahar raid, NATO Afghanistan mission says

NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said Wednesday that it had not been informed through official channels of allegations of civilian deaths in a raid in Kandahar province earlier this month.

Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier Wednesday that a raid on the night of January 31 – February 1 had resulted in the deaths of local civilians, including some who were summarily executed by Afghan forces.

HRW said they were informed by local residents that Afghan security forces “opened fire on men as they attempted to flee, killing about 50 Taliban fighters and at least 20 civilians,” with security personnel dragging some people from their homes and shooting them on the ground.

Resolute Support Public Affairs Director Captain Thomas Gresback told The Defense Post that Afghan Special Security Forces conducted a partnered operation in the Band-e Timor area of Maiwand district that night.

“Over the course of the operation in this known Taliban safe haven, eight Taliban checkpoints were removed allowing the ASSF to clear and destroy three IED factories and four house-borne IEDs. All of those killed in the operation were identified as Taliban fighters,” Gresback said in an emailed statement.

“A number of Taliban suspects were detained, and 7 kg of opium seized. No reports of civilian casualties have been received through official channels.”

He noted that Resolute Support continues to provide human rights training to and monitoring of the Afghan National Security Defense Forces in accordance with current NATO and U.S. guidelines.

Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate said on February 2 that 50 Taliban fighters were killed in the operation, 32 people were arrested, and a number of weapons and vehicles were seized. The NDS said in a statement that “a bombmaking center with 30 bombs, 20 kilograms each, and 10 houses were destroyed in the operation.”

The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan documented 61 civilian deaths and 27 injuries last year in operations that involved NDS special forces.

“These forces appear to operate outside of the regular NDS chain of command, resulting in a lack of clear oversight and accountability given the absence of clearly defined jurisdiction for the investigation of any allegations against them,” UNAMA said in its annual civilian casualty report.

“We did not have the opportunity to raise this particular case with Resolute Support. We will be producing a longer report on a number of incidents, including this one, and will seek their comment—and that of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, at that time. The point of the press release was to highlight a particularly concerning recent incident, and bring it to the attention of the Government of Afghanistan as well,” Patricia Gossman, HRW’s senior researcher on Afghanistan, told The Defense Post.

“Regardless of how such reports are received, we assist the Afghan National Security Defense Forces (ANDSF) with investigating and prosecuting, as appropriate, in Afghan courts,” Gresback said.

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