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Afghan President Vows Steps To Prevent Civilian Casualties After Deadly Attacks


President Ashraf Ghani (center) stands with Amrullah Saleh (right), his vice presidential candidate, during his election campaign stop in Jalalabad on September 20.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has promised to take steps to prevent civilian casualties in the war against militants, a day after at least 30 civilians were killed in a U.S. drone strike in eastern Nangarhar Province.

Ghani said on September 20 that he had introduced several "checks and balances" to stop night raids and attacks leading to loss of innocent lives, and added that new measures to protect civilians were being implemented.

He made the pledges while addressing an election rally in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province, ahead of presidential polls scheduled for September 28.

The September 19 drone strike in Nangarhar killed at least 30 people who were working in a pine-nut field and wounded at least 40.

The Afghan Defense Ministry and a U.S. military spokesman confirmed the strike.

The drone strike came despite village elders from the Wazir Tangi area having warned the local governor in a letter about their plans to recruit 200 workers and children to pluck the pine nuts.

The letter, dated September 7, was sent in an effort to help protect workers from getting caught in clashes between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and Islamic State militants in the mountainous region.

Meanwhile, a local official said on September 20 that a Taliban suicide bombing of a hospital in southern Afghanistan the previous day killed 39 people, almost doubling the initial death toll of 20.

Gul Islam Syaal, a spokesman for the governor of the southern Zabul Province, said the number of wounded in the attack in the provincial capital of Qalat also rose to 140.

"Only two of those killed were security force members, and the rest of them are civilians, including women, children, patients, and visitors," he said. "The hospital is completely destroyed."

The attacks, which came after the collapse of peace negotiations between Washington and the militants, occurred the same day U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad briefed U.S. lawmakers in a closed-door session on his talks with the Taliban.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa

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