Afghanistan Probe: Unlawful US airstrikes on suspected Taliban drug labs cause 39 civilian casualties, including 14 children, UN report says

A probe into US attacks on alleged drug-processing facilities conducted in May confirmed almost 40 civilian casualties, including many children. Contrary to what Washington argues, the strikes were illegal, a UN report says.

On May 5, US forces conducted a series of airstrikes in the southwest of Afghanistan targeting what they said were over 60 drug labs. A UN probe into the attacks confirmed that the strikes killed or injured a large number of civilians.

Inspectors from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) confirmed 39 civilian casualties, including 14 children. Verification of at least 37 other civilian casualties, most of them women and children, is still underway.

The US says drug trafficking is a major source of revenue for the Taliban and therefore drug labs are a legitimate military target. Last year, hundreds of airstrikes were conducted to curtail the business, but the effort was proven grossly inefficient and was stopped, only to be restarted later.

The UN’s major concern however is not that the Pentagon wastes American taxpayer money on bombing alleged labs but that it is indiscriminately killing civilians with its bombs.

“According to international humanitarian law … facilities that contribute economically or financially to the war effort of a party to a conflict are considered civilian objectives,” the UN said. “Drug facilities and associated workers may not be lawfully made the target of attack and should be protected.”

Media reports in the aftermath of the bombings said as many as 150 Taliban fighters were killed in addition to the civilians.

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