Afghan officials have confirmed that a U.S. drone strike aiming to hit an Islamic State terror group hideout mistakenly killed at least 30 civilians who were resting after a day’s work collecting pine nuts, Reuters reports. There has been a sharp increase in civilians killed by the Taliban and the government and U.S.-led forces this year as elections approach and peace talks collapsed. The report emerged the same day that the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a hospital in southern Zabul province that killed at least 20 people.
Afghanistan’s defense ministry and a senior U.S official in Kabul confirmed the drone strike, which occurred Wednesday night in eastern Nangarhar province and injured an additional 40 people. Tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters “the workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them.” Haidar Khan, the owner of the farm, said about 150 workers were there and some were still missing. Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told Reuters “U.S. forces conducted a drone strike against Da’esh [ISIS] terrorists in Nangarhar,” adding that they were “aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.”