File photo. Photograph:( ANI )
More than 50 Taliban commanders were killed during an artillery strike on a meeting in Afghanistan's Helmand province, officials informed on Wednesday.
Reports quoted officials as saying that a weapon system known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is capable of firing GPS-guided rockets, destroyed a command-and-control position that was a known meeting place for high-level Taliban leaders.
He also added that because of a large number of leaders killed and their involvement in a range of attack planning, the impact of the HIMARS strike “will be felt beyond Helmand province.”
The attack on a meeting of commanders in the district of Musa Qala in Helmand, one of the heartlands of the Taliban insurgency, was a significant blow to the insurgents, said Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
"It's certainly a notable strike," he said, adding that several other senior and lower level commanders had been killed during operations over a 10-day period this month.
The Taliban dismissed the report as "propaganda" and said the attack had hit two civilian houses in Musa Qala, killing five civilians and wounding three.
"This was a civilian residential area, which had no connection with the Taliban," spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in a statement.
The statement further added that the structure was a known meeting location for prominent Taliban leaders, where they planned and facilitated attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, who are supporting election security in the area.
The US military said the May 24 meeting involved commanders from different Afghan provinces, including neighbouring Farah, where Taliban fighters briefly threatened to overrun the provincial capital this month.
"We think the meeting was to plan next steps," O'Donnell said. While the strike by an artillery rocket system would disrupt Taliban operations, it would not necessarily mean any interruption to the fighting, he said.