Hundreds of Afghans marched on Tuesday (September 24) in protest against the deaths of at least 40 wedding party guests who were caught in the crossfire of a clash between Afghan government forces and Taliban.
With presidential elections due this coming Saturday (September 28), the killings and the many more before them threaten to alienate Afghanistan's people from the elite in the capital, Kabul.
Civilians have paid a heavy price in a war that has intensified since US-Taliban peace talks collapsed two weeks ago. The wedding deaths occurred days after a US drone strike killed 32 pine nut harvesters but which officials said was aimed at militants.
On Sunday (September 22) night, members of the wedding party were caught in the crossfire of explosions and bullets during a US-backed Afghan government force raid on a nearby Taliban hideout, officials in Helmand said.
Tuesday's marchers demanded an investigation into the deaths and justice for the victims.
Though the protest was peaceful, anger was palpable as demonstrators chanted a call for death to the civilians' killers, a Reuters reporter said.
Some said civilians had been deliberately targeted, others expressed fatigue at the frequency of such events.
Last week President Ashraf Ghani promised measures to reduce civilian casualties. On Monday (September 23), he called for "extra caution" in military operations and ordered investigations.
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