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At least 30 people are dead and 40 are injured in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province after a U.S. drone strike mistook them for an ISIS target, Reuters reports.
U.S. forces "conducted a precision strike" on a group of ISIS militants on Thursday morning, and had heard "reports" of civilian casualties, a U.S. military spokesman tells CBS News reports. Afghan officials and tribal leaders meanwhile say the strike "accidentally" targeted a group of about 200 farmers who had pitched tents after a day of gathering pine nuts, per Reuters.
About 150 farmers and laborers had just finished working when the attack happened, Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, told Reuters. "The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them," tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul similarly said. But a Nangarhar province spokesperson said only nine bodies had been recovered so far, and U.S. officials are countering the reported deaths altogether.
ISIS combatants often "intentionally kill and hide behind civilians, as well as use dishonest claims of non-combatant casualties as propaganda weapons," U.S. spokesperson Colonel Sonny Leggett told CBS News. The alleged casualties, Leggett said, may be a "ploy" to distract from a Taliban suicide attack on a hospital in southern Afghanistan that happened around the same time. The car bomb attack killed at least 20 people and injured 95 others, Afghan officials say.