An impartial investigation by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan concluded that a shooting at a market in Sangin on Monday that killed nearly two dozen civilians, including children, was the result of mortars fired by the Afghan Army that was intended to target the Taliban.
The mission said the shooting by the Afghanistan National Army was in response to Taliban fire.
“Both parties must stop fighting in civilian-populated areas. Such indirect fire incidents in ground engagements cause 1000s of civilian casualties each year,” the U.N. agency said.
Authorities have reported 23 deaths in the Taliban-controlled area in Helmand province, but the U.S. said “dozens were killed and injured” in the incident, adding that a final number of casualties has not been verified.
The body of a man who was killed during a deadly attack is moved on a gurney, in the southern Helmand province, Monday, June 29, 2020. A car bombing and mortar shells fired at a busy market in Helmand province on Monday killed over 20 people, including children, a statement from a provincial governor’s office said. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaliq)
The Afghan army has said there was no military action in the area and blamed a car bomb detonated by the Taliban as the catalyst for the attack, while the insurgent group denied responsibility.
The violence continues to mount in the region despite upcoming peace talks between government representatives from Kabul and the Taliban, which are slated to begin in early July in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again calls on the Taliban to refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people, which is the end of the war and the start of negotiations,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement following the attacks.
A U.N. report in May said the Taliban is responsible for killing or wounding some 208 civilians in April while operations carried out by Afghan forces had killed or wounded 172 civilians.