A U.S. military spokesman said on Tuesday that the US-led coalition launched an artillery strike on a meeting of insurgent leaders, killing 50 Taliban commanders in the southern province of Helmand.
The attack on a meeting of commanders in the district of Musa Qala in Helmand, one of the heartlands of the Taliban insurgency, was a significant blow to the insurgents, said Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“It’s certainly a notable strike,” he said, adding that several other senior and lower level commanders had been killed during operations over a 10-day period this month.
The Taliban dismissed the report as “propaganda” and said the attack had hit two civilian houses in Musa Qala, killing five civilians and wounding three.
“This was a civilian residential area, which had no connection with the Taliban,” spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in a statement.
The U.S. military said the May 24 meeting involved commanders from different Afghan provinces, including neighboring Farah, where Taliban fighters briefly threatened to overrun the provincial capital this month.
“We think the meeting was to plan next steps,” O’Donnell said. While the strike by an artillery rocket system would disrupt Taliban operations, it would not necessarily mean any interruption to the fighting, he said.
Elsewhere, three civilians were killed and 13 wounded by an explosion in the southern city of Kandahar that appeared to have targeted a mechanics’ workshop repairing Afghan army vehicles, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.
The attack was utilized by a weapon system known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is capable of firing GPS-guided rockets, and it destroyed a command-and-control position that was a known meeting place for high-level Taliban leaders.
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