JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Dispatches) -- A U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan killed at least 30 civilians resting after a day’s labor in the fields, officials said on Thursday.
The attack on Wednesday night also injured 40 people after targeting farmers and laborers who had just finished collecting pine nuts at mountainous Wazir Tangi in eastern Nangarhar province, three Afghan officials told Reuters.
"The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters by telephone from Wazir Tangi.
Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry and a senior U.S official in Kabul confirmed the drone strike, but did not share details of civilian casualties.
About 14,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, purportedly training and advising Afghan security forces.
Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting, with some still missing as well as the confirmed dead and injured.
A survivor of the drone strike said about 200 laborers were sleeping in five tents pitched near the farm when the attack happened.
"Some of us managed to escape, some were injured but many were killed,” said Juma Gul, a resident of northeastern Kunar province who had traveled along with laborers to harvest and shell pine nuts this week.
Angered by the attack, some residents of Nangarhar province demanded an apology and monetary compensation from the U.S. government.
"Such mistakes cannot be justified. American forces must realize (they) will never win the war by killing innocent civilians,” said Javed Mansur, a resident of Jalalabad city.
Scores of local men joined a protest against the attack on Thursday morning as they helped carry the victims’ bodies to Jalalabad city and then to the burial site.
In a separate incident, at least 20 people died in a truck bomb attack on Thursday carried out by the Taliban in the southern province of Zabul.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in fighting across Afghanistan after the collapse of U.S.-Taliban peace talks this month. The Taliban has warned U.S. President Donald Trump will regret his decision to abruptly call off talks that could have led to a political settlement to end the 18-year-old war.
The United Nations says nearly 4,000 civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of the year. That included a big increase in casualties inflicted by government and U.S.-led foreign forces.