Wed, 16 Oct 2019

At least 50 people have been killed in an air strike and a car bombing in Afghanistan, as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad prepares to brief U.S. lawmakers on his peace talks with the Taliban.

The September 19 incidents come after the collapse of negotiations between Washington and the militants and just days ahead of a presidential election.

Officials said at least 30 civilians were killed and 40 wounded in an air strike conducted by the Afghan security forces, backed by U.S. air support, in eastern Afghanistan, while at least 20 people were killed and almost 100 wounded in a car bombing in the war-wracked country's south.

The air strike was aimed at destroying a hideout used by Islamic State militants, but it accidentally targeted farmers near a field, three government officials said.

Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member in eastern Nangarhar Province, said a drone strike killed 30 workers in a pine-nut field and at least 40 others were injured.

The Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed the strike, but refused to share casualty details immediately. U.S. forces were not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, officials said a Taliban car-bomb attack in Zabul Province killed at least 20 people and wounded 97 on September 19.

The attack targeted an intelligence-services building in the city of Qalat and also hit the city hospital, Rahmatullah Yarmal, the provincial governor, told RFE/RL.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said his group was responsible for the attack.

Officials told Tolo News that 'ambulances have also been called from Kandahar city to transfer the wounded to hospitals in Kandahar Province. Most of the victims have been taken to private hospitals.'

Two recent attacks claimed by the militants killed at least 48 people in Afghanistan, although Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban's chief negotiator, told the BBC on September 18 that the 'doors are open' to a resumption of talks to end the 18-year war.

Taliban negotiators have refused to talk directly with the government in Kabul, labeling them as 'puppets' of the West.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, is due to brief a House of Representatives committee on peace negotiations.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee said that Khalilzad will hold a classified briefing for the entire panel early on September 19.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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