KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. airstrikes authorized after two American soldiers were wounded in southern Helmand province’s hotly contested Sangin district on Thursday may have killed as many as 25 civilians, officials said.
The U.S. troops were injured while supporting Afghan forces, who have been battling the Taliban in the district for weeks. The militants see Sangin as a stepping stone to encircling and eventually capturing Helmand’s capital, Laskhar Gah.
One of the American soldiers suffered a gunshot wound and was flown out of the country for treatment. The other suffered minor shrapnel wounds and returned to duty, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said Saturday.
Cleveland said the airstrikes were called in after the troops were injured.
Hayatullah Mayar, a provincial council member in Helmand, said the strikes hit local homes, resulting in the deaths of between 20 and 25 civilians.
“To avoid being bombed, the Taliban are hiding in people’s homes, and that’s why the civilians’ houses were hit,” Mayar said. “According to our initial information, all members of two families were killed, including women and children, and a number of Taliban were also killed.”