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8 dead in Afghan airstrike amid US-Taliban peace efforts

Provincial council member Ajmal Omar said that the slain civilians were returning from a picnic when they were hit.

SNS | New Delhi |

Amid a breakthrough in peace talks between the US and the insurgent group, at least eight civilians, including a child were killed in an airstrike that targeted Taliban militants in Afghanistan, according to the government officials on Saturday.

Earlier on Friday, the air raid was carried out in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

“Unfortunately, eight civilians, including a child, were martyred during (the) operation against the Taliban,” the provincial governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyanai told Efe news.

Provincial council member Ajmal Omar said that the slain civilians were returning from a picnic when they were hit.

According to the Nangarhar security official, nine Taliban fighters were also killed in the military operation.

However, the Taliban claimed on its social media channels that 11 civilians were killed in the airstrike by government forces.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US president had given the go-ahead for further talks. He hailed recent progress, but said the negotiations were complicated and that a peace deal had not yet been reached, the BBC reported.

On January 19, Afghanistan government spokesman said that “all allies” of the country, as well as the “people of Afghanistan,” were “insisting on a ceasefire” before the next step in the peace process.

Earlier, the Afghan government disclosed a list of delegates for the peace negotiating team once the US and the Taliban finalize their peace deal.

Last year, in September, Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation had said that the US and Taliban are “at the threshold of an agreement” that would reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together and negotiate.

On December 19, Khalilzad also said that the US and Taliban were approaching an important stage in the Afghan peace process.

But US President Donald Trump called an abrupt halt to the process after an American was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul

The draft agreement ensured that over 5,000 US troops will withdraw from five American bases in the first 135 days after the signing of the deal.

Since the end of the NATO combat mission in January 2015, the US maintains one contingent within the framework of the new allied mission of advising Afghan troops and another for “anti-terrorist” operations.

(With inputs from agency)