JALALABAD, July 6: Nearly two dozen people were killed in an air strike by the US-led coalition forces on a wedding party in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Sunday, a senior Afghan official said.

The forces insisted only militants died in the attack and Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation into the matter.

Witnesses who brought the victims to hospital in Jalalabad said that several people were killed and wounded in the strike.

The allegations could not be independently verified as the area, the Deh Bala district along the border with Pakistan, is remote and difficult to access.

Deh Bala governor Hamisha Gul said 22 people were killed on Sunday and several others wounded when the air strike hit people gathered for a wedding.

“I confirm that 22 people, three of them men and 19 of them women and children, were killed,” he said. Gul said his information came from police and other officials he had dispatched to the area to investigate.

About 70 people, mostly women, were escorting a bride to meet her groom in traditional Afghan fashion, said a man from the area who gave his name only as Kerate.

“We were bombed. I couldn’t figure out what had happened and I went unconscious. When I woke up, I saw lots of people killed and injured,” he said at the hospital in Jalalabad, the provincial capital.

“After the bombing, I saw several people wounded and killed,” said another man, who gave his name as Awrang.

“I picked up some of the wounded and brought them here. I learnt later that my wife, my daughter and my sisters were killed.”

The US-led coalition rejected the allegations. “It was not a wedding party, there were no women or children present. We have no reports of civilian casualties,” coalition media officer Captain Christian Patterson said.

Karzai ordered the Afghan Defence and Interior Ministries and a body that oversees local government to investigate, a statement from the presidential palace said.

“President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly emphasised the (need for) coordination of military operations and has been deeply saddened since learning about this incident,” it said.


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