Local people carry the body of a civilian in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, Afghanistan 230919 CREDIT PA.jpg
Afghanistan

Anti-Taliban Raid Leaves At Least 40 Civilians Dead, Officials Say

The raid was carried out by Afghan forces backed by US airstrikes in Helmand province, according to Afghan officials.

Local people carry the body of a civilian in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, Afghanistan 230919 CREDIT PA.jpg

People carry the body of a civilian who lost their lives in Lashkar Gah, Helmand provinceĀ (Picture: PA).

Anti-Taliban raids by Afghan forces backed by US airstrikes have killed at least 40 civilians attending a wedding party in Helmand province, Afghan officials have said on Monday.

The raids took place on Sunday night and targeted Taliban hideouts.

The civilian deaths further rattled Afghanistan amid an upsurge in violence following the collapse this month of US-Taliban peace talks to end America's longest war.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said: "We are saddened and divested to hear that civilians have lost their lives in an incident in Helmand despite President Ghani's repeated call for extra cautions in conducting military operations."

He added that the governor of Helmand's provinceĀ has been instructed to send an investigation team to the area.

Abdul Majed Akhund, Deputy Provincial Councillor, said most of the dead were women and children who were at a wedding ceremony in Musa Qala district.

Afghan security force members take part in a military operation against in Helmand Province on Monday (Picture: PA).

Another 12 civilians were wounded and taken to hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, Mr Akhund said.

The civilian deaths occurred during the second of two raids in different areas of Musa Qala, said Attahullah Afghan, Head of the Provincial Council.

The operations killed 22 Taliban fighters, including foreigners, Afghanistan's Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Fourteen people were arrested, including five Pakistani nationals and one Bangladeshi.

The statement said a large warehouse of supplies and equipment was also destroyed.

"The foreign terrorist group was actively engaged in organising terrorist attacks," it continued.

The raids came after a drone attack last week in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province - blamed on US forces - killed at least 16 and wounded tens of others, most of them civilians.

US forces said that attack was targeting Islamic State militants.

The violence comes as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections on Saturday, a vote the Taliban vehemently oppose.

The Taliban are at their strongest since their removal in 2001 and hold sway over more than half the country, staging near-daily attacks across Afghanistan.

The insurgent group has warned Afghans not to vote in the election and said their fighters would target election campaigns as well as polling stations.