At least 16 civilians have been killed in a U.S. airstrike as they tried to flee an area in eastern Afghanistan controlled by Islamic State group militants, Afghan officials said on Friday.
"On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. forces bombarded a civilian private vehicle ... when they were travelling inside the district," Saaz Wali Shinwari, the district governor of Haska Mina in Nangarhar province, told AFP.
"Unfortunately, in the airstrike we have casualties. All the victims, which included women and children, were civilians and they were from one family,” he said.
"The victims were beyond recognition, and they were placed inside the sacks and were buried late last night," Wali added.
A spokesman for the U.S. military said that the Pentagon was aware of the reports but would not immediately comment.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, previously said that an unknown number of casualties had occurred in the area, but later confirmed that at least 16 civilians were killed.
The United States military has deployed Special Forces and airstrikes against Islamic State group militants in Afghanistan and said it has killed dozens of the group’s leaders and hundreds of fighters this year.
Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense, said Thursday’s strike was carried out by foreign forces in coordination with Afghan officials.
"In the strike, five insurgents were killed and two others were wounded,” he told AFP. "We do not have any news about civilian casualties. But, we have appointed a delegation to investigate if civilians are killed."
A recent report from the United Nations found that a record number of 1,622 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2017 in Afghanistan, a two percent increase from the same period last year. An additional 3,581 civilians were wounded.
While most of those deaths were attributed to insurgents, particularly through suicide bombings, there have been a series of incidents involving U.S. airstrikes and Afghans in the past.
Last month, a U.S. airstrike killed 12 policemen in Helmand province. In February, another U.S. airstrike in Sangin killed at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children.