Los Angeles Times

Escalation of air attacks has raised civilian toll in Afghanistan

JALALABAD, Afghanistan - As U.S. warplanes flew above a cluster of villages where Islamic State militants were holed up in eastern Afghanistan, 11 people piled into a truck and drove off along an empty dirt track to escape what they feared was imminent bombing.

They did not get far.

An explosion blasted the white Suzuki truck off the road, opening a large crater in the earth and flipping the vehicle on its side in a ditch. A teenage girl survived. The 10 dead included three children, one an infant in his mother's arms.

The lone survivor of the Aug. 10 blast in Nangarhar province, and Afghan officials who visited the site, said the truck was hit by an American airstrike shortly before 5 p.m. Relatives expressed horror that U.S. ground forces and surveillance aircraft could have mistaken the passengers, who included women and children riding in the open truck bed - in daylight with no buildings or other vehicles around - for Islamic State fighters.

"How could they not see there were women and children in the truck?" said Zafar Khan, 23, who lost six family members, including his mother and three siblings, in the blast.

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