Afghan official says 13 civilians killed in U.S. airstrike

KABUL, Afghanistan -- At least 13 civilians were killed in an airstrike that hit a residential building in a volatile district of eastern Nangarhar province early Wednesday, an Afghan official said.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan said the incident was being investigated.

Esmatullah Shinwari, a Nangarhar lawmaker, told The Associated Press that a crowd had gathered at the house in Achin district, near the Pakistan border, to welcome home a tribal leader returning from the Hajj, an annual Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

At least 12 people were wounded in the strike, including the tribal leader, he said.

Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, the spokesman for the provincial police chief, said that the airstrike had targeted Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) loyalists. Afghan forces backed by the U.S. military have been battling ISIS fighters in Achin for months.

The spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, confirmed a “counter-terrorism airstrike in Achin district” early Wednesday.

“U.S. forces did conduct one counter-terrorism airstrike in Achin district, Nangarhar province, Sept. 28, and for operational security reasons we do not discuss the details of counter-terror operations,” Cleveland said in a statement.

“We are aware of some claims of Afghan casualties,” he said, adding that investigations were underway.

Pressure mounts on U.S. over bombed Afghan hospital

More than a dozen U.S. military personnel were disciplined this spring -- but face no criminal charges -- for mistakes that led to the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital that killed 42 people in Afghanistan in October 2015.

The hospital, run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders in the northern city of Kunduz, was attacked by a U.S. Air Force special operations AC-130 gunship, one of the most lethal in the U.S. arsenal. Doctors Without Borders called the attack “relentless and brutal” and demanded an international investigation, but none has been undertaken.

Army Gen. John Campbell, who was the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan at the time but has since relinquished command, has called it a “tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error.”