US airstrike kills 16 Afghan policemen in Helmand as Taliban leader's son believed dead in suicide attack 

US airstrike kills 16 Afghan policemen in Helmand as Taliban leader's son believed dead in suicide attack A US airstrike has killed 16 policemen in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday, the latest setback to Washington's efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country. The incident took place in Helmand province on Friday as Afghan security forces attempted to clear a village of Taliban militants, Salam Afghan, a police spokesman, told AFP. "In the strike, 16 Afghan policemen were killed including two commanders. Two other policemen were wounded," he said. The strike hit a compound in Gereshk district in Helmand, large parts of which are under Taliban control. Afghan security force members are in an ongoing battle against the Taliban Credit:  Xinhua / Barcroft Images "A US-supported (Afghan security) operation… resulted in the deaths of… friendly Afghan forces who were gathered in a compound," Nato's mission in Afghanistan said in a statement. "We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families affected by this unfortunate incident," the statement said, adding there would be a probe into what happened. This follows the news that the son of Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada died on Thursday carrying out a suicide attack in Helmand. Abdur Rahman, 23, also known as Hafiz Khalid, was driving a vehicle laden with explosives into an Afghan military base in the town of Gereshk, north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, the Taliban's main spokesman for southern Afghanistan, said. A US Marine talks with Afghan National Army soldiers during a training in Helmand province Credit: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani He said Abdur Rahman had been a madrassa student but had wanted to carry out a suicide attack. "He succeeded in his mission last Thursday," he said. Taliban fighters drove three captured Humvee vehicles into checkpoints during heavy fighting around Gereshk on Thursday. One senior Taliban member, close to Haibatullah's family, said Abdur Rahman had enrolled as a suicide bomber before his father became leader of the Taliban last year and had insisted on continuing after his father took office. Mullah Haibatullah took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour died in a US drone strike in Pakistan in May, 2016. "Before this, a number of close relatives and family members of previous supreme leaders had conducted suicide bombings but Sheikh Haibatullah has become the first supreme leader whose son sacrificed his life," the senior Taliban member said. A government official said security authorities were investigating the incident and could not confirm that Mullah Haibatullah's son had been killed. People greet the Afghan security officials as they took control of the Nawa district following an operation against Taliban militants in Helmand earlier this month Credit: EPA/WATAN YAR The incident in Gereshk came as fighting in Helmand, source of most of Afghanistan's opium crop, has intensified in recent days following the end of the harvest season. The insurgents control much of the province and threaten Lashkar Gah but government forces, backed by US airstrikes, have launched an operation to drive them back from around the provincial capital. In addition to the fighting in Helmand, there have also been reports of heavy fighting in other areas of the country, from Kunduz and Baghlan province in the north to Farah province in the west. An interior ministry spokesman, Najeeb Danish, said a ministry delegation had been sent to the area to investigate and help families of the victims. Helmand for years was the centrepiece of the US and British military intervention in Afghanistan. But the Taliban now effectively controls or contests 10 of Helmand's 14 districts, blighted by a huge opium harvest that helps fund the insurgency.



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