KABUL, Afghanistan - At least 20 Afghan civilians, including a dozen children, are believed dead as the result of an assassination attempt of a Taliban commander in the eastern province of Kunar, local officials said Sunday.
Afghan forces, trained and supported by U.S.-led Nato personnel were targeting Taliban commander Sharif Mawiya as part of a sustained effort to eliminate senior Taliban commanders.
A number of commanders have been killed in air strikes conducted by the U.S. Air Force on behalf of the Afghan military in recent weeks reportedely to advance efforts to reach a truce.
The latest air strike, which took place late on Friday, has reportedly killed a large number of civilians. No comment has been made on whether the attempt to kill Mawiya was successful.
Abdul Latif Fazly, a member of the provincial council in the region, confirmed to the Reuters news agency that 8 women and twelve children were killed in the airstrike, and another 15 people were injured.
A spokeswoman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission rejected the claim, saying a a number of civilians had been wounded in the strike, but none had been killed.
"The Taliban continues to use civilians as shields and barricade themselves inside compounds while engaging the Afghan forces," Debra Richardson of Resolute Support said Sunday.
She said U.S. airstrikes were supporting the new Afghan army strategy of targeting the entire Taliban, from low-ranking fighters to military commanders.
"We have reports over 40 Taliban fighters were killed in the Afghan-led operations, supported by U.S. air strikes in Kunar province," Richardson said.
Kunar governor Abdul Satar Mirzakwal said in a statement that the operation targeting Mawiya resulted in the deaths of thirty-eight Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, and wounded 12.
Despite the preciseness of the numbers of militants killed and wounded, the governor had no numbers concerning the number of civilian deaths or injuries, however he did confirm civlians, including women and children, died as a result of the attack.
"We know that a number of civilians, including women and children have been killed but we are sending a fact finding team," he said.
Separately, in a non-related incident, Resolute Support has confirmed that a U.S. service member assigned to the Resolute mission has died as the result of a non-combat related incident.
The service member's name is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The member died on Thursday.