Sunday, October 20, 2019 | ePaper

Letter fails to save 30 Afghan farmers killed by US in drone strike

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Reuters, Jalalabad :
Twelve days ahead of the pine-nut harvest season, the governor of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province received a letter from village elders in the Wazir Tangi area about their plans to recruit 200 labourers and children to pluck the dry fruit.
The letter, seen by Reuters and dated September 7, was sent in an effort to help protect labourers from getting caught in clashes between US-backed Afghan forces and ISIS fighters in the mountainous terrain largely controlled by the jihadists.
Taliban insurgents and ISIS fighters have been battling each other for control of the province's natural resources. US and Afghan forces routinely launch air strikes to regain control over territory lost to militant groups.
On Wednesday, just hours after farmers, labourers and children finished their day's work of plucking pine nuts in the heavily forested area and lit bonfires near their tents, a US drone hit the site, killing 30 civilians and injuring 40 others, according to three Afghan provincial officials. Local residents expressed shock and anger that the attack occurred despite the letter and subsequent assurances of safety for the workers.
"We had huddled together around small bonfires and we were discussing the security situation in our villages, but suddenly everything changed.

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