A U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan killed at least 15 civilians on Wednesday, drawing United Nations condemnation and calls for an independent probe into the attack.
In a statement, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the civilians, all men, "had gathered in a village to celebrate the return of a tribal elder from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and were reportedly sleeping in a guesthouse of the elder when the airstrike occurred. Civilian victims of the strike included students and a teacher, as well as members of families considered to be pro-government." In addition to those killed, 13 people including at least one boy were injured in the strike.
"I saw dead and wounded bodies everywhere," said Raghon Shinwari, one of the wounded, from hospital bed in Jalalabad city.
U.S. military sources confirmed the airstrike in Achin, a remote area near the Pakistan border. Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said the U.S. "takes all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously" and was "currently reviewing all materials related to this strike."
In turn, UNAMA reiterated "the need for all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law" and demanded "a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into this incident."
As AntiWar.com noted, "This would mark the second bungled U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in a little over a week, after a previous incident in which U.S. forces tried to 'rescue' Afghan police on the ground by blowing up their checkpoint and killing eight of them."
And the Guardian pointed out that "[t]he incident happened almost a year to the day after another U.S. airstrike destroyed a Doctor Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, killing 42. After that incident, the U.S. and the Afghan government refused calls for an independent investigation."