|Afghan army mortars kill 25 civilians at wedding|
The attack occurred Wednesday evening in the Sangin district of Helmand Province, the site of some of the heaviest fighting in the country in the past year. Afghan officials said they had begun an investigation of the episode, which wounded more than 50 people, mostly women and children, The New York Times reports.
“We talked to A.N.A. command, but they are denying it,” Haji Mohammad Jan Rasolyaar, the deputy governor of Helmand, said, referring to the Afghan National Army. “That area is a front line, but the incident is an unfortunate one.”
Civilian casualties are on the rise in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations. There were estimates that the death toll would exceed 10,000 in 2014. The rise in casualties reflects, in part, deadlier fighting on the ground between Afghan forces and the Taliban, a situation highlighted by the deaths in Sangin.
Sangin itself was the center of Taliban violence in the past year, which engulfed soldiers and police officers fighting to hold on to the center of the district.
In Helmand more broadly, more than 1,300 members of the security forces were killed between June and November. Over all, more than 5,000 members of the security forces died last year, an increase from 2013 and a record number since the start of the war.
The increase in deaths comes as coalition forces take on a new mission in Afghanistan, stepping back entirely from a combat role to advise and assist Afghan forces. But the change will be subtle for most members of the Afghan security forces, who for more than a year have been fighting on their own.
Officials said that a joint committee of representatives of the police and the army, as well as elders, would be sent to the area to determine what had happened. Villagers believed that the army was firing rockets or mortar rounds into the village of Bayanzai in Sangin, where a wedding party had gathered awaiting the return of the bride, officials said.
“We just sent a delegation comprised of A.N.A. and A.N.P. and elders to Sangin to find out the real cause of the attack and why and how the wedding party has been targeted,” said Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor, referring to the army and the Afghan National Police. “We don’t know the accurate figures for casualties. There are more wounded people who have been shifted elsewhere.”