Afghanistan: Hundreds killed in November attacks

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – More than 300 Afghan civilians, security forces and thousands of armed rebels were killed in November in signs of escalating violence in the war-torn country.

Figures compiled by Anadolu Agency indicate there has been an evident surge in killings amid a renewed push by the U.S. for peace talks with Taliban in the nearly two-decade-old war.

In just three major incidents of civilian casualties last month, over 100 lives were lost in capital Kabul, Helmand and Ghazni provinces.

The deadliest among them was a suicide bombing at a religious ceremony in the heart of Kabul that claimed 50 lives on Nov. 20.

Najib Danish, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, told Anadolu Agency the suicide attack targeted a private community hall where the birthday of Prophet Muhammad was being marked.

This was followed by Taliban assaults on ethnic Shia-Hazara minority villages in Jaghori and Malistan district of Ghazni in the last week of November that left at least 35 civilians killed. Thousands more were forced to flee their homes and take refuge in relatively safer parts of the country.

The third resulted in mass civilian casualties in a U.S. air raid in restive Helmand province late November which killed 23 civilians.

Some 649 civilians casualties have been recorded this year from January to September, according to the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The Afghan forces continue to face the brunt of war after taking over over nationwide security responsibilities from NATO forces in 2015.

In a rare admission, President Ashraf Ghani confirmed more than 28,500 Afghan troops have been killed since taking over security responsibilities from the much better trained and equipped NATO forces.

He revealed this otherwise well-guarded death toll while making a point about the sacrifices of the Afghans in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington via video-link from Kabul last month.

In Farah province bordering Iran, more than 70 troops were killed in multiple assaults over the month.

The Afghan and U.S. officials have long been blaming Iran for fuelling insurgency in Farah, a claim rejected by Tehran.

This was followed by a deadly assault on the ethnic Shia-Hazara minority villages in Ghazni in late November that left 50 troops dead.

Another 26 soldiers were killed in a suicide attack inside an Afghan army mosque on Nov. 23.

On average 60 rebels were killed on daily basis in November during ground operations, the Defense Ministry said on its website.

Attacks on foreign troops continued during the month.

Three U.S. servicemen were killed and three others wounded on Nov. 27 when an improvised explosive device detonated near Ghazni city. One American contractor was also wounded.

This year 12 U.S. soldiers and four other coalition members lost their lives in attacks, said Maj. Bariki Mallya, spokesman of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.