Wednesday, September 27, 2017

‘Malfunctioning’ US missile causes ‘several casualties’ during Mattis’ Afghanistan visit

a number of civilian casualties
U.S. air strike called in to suppress an attack in Kabul on Wednesday as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was visiting the Afghan capital caused a number of civilian casualties, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said.

The air strike was called in to support an Afghan Special Forces unit battling attackers who hit Kabul airport, but it suffered a missile malfunction, "causing several casualties", the statement said. It gave no details.

An Afghan woman was killed and 11 civilians were wounded in the Taliban attack. Afghan special forces managed to repel the attackers, killing four in an ensuing gunbattle, officials said.

"Tragically, one of the missiles malfunctioned, causing several casualties," the U.S. command said. It expressed regret for having harmed civilians but did not say whether any of the casualties were killed.

"We take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties, even as the enemies of Afghanistan continue to operate in locations that deliberately put civilians at very high risk," it added. The statement said the original Taliban attackers had fired several rounds of "high-explosive ammunition, including mortars, in the vicinity of" the Kabul airport.

The U.S. statement said the insurgents also detonated suicide vests, "endangering a great number of civilians."

Mattis was meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the time of the attack, along with visiting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Mattis' plane was not hit.

The attack — both its location, the Kabul airport, and the purported target, a visiting U.S. official's plane — underscored the ability of the insurgents to still stage high-profile attacks despite Afghan security forces' struggle to stem Taliban gains.

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