KABUL — Lawmakers from the northern province of Kunduz said they have received conflicting reports of civilian deaths during a weekend ground and aerial offensive by Afghan and U.S. forces against Taliban insurgents. The Afghan government and the U.S. military in Afghanistan on Sunday said they were assessing the reports.
Some unconfirmed reports put the toll of the attack, in the Char Dara district, at nearly 60.
The Defense Ministry's chief spokesman, Dawlat Waziri, said in a news conference that the government has appointed "a team to probe reports of civilians' deaths."
In Logar province, south of Kabul, a U.S. service member died as a result of wounds he received during operations on Saturday afternoon, the U.S.-led coalition reported. The province has seen an increase in attacks in recent weeks by Taliban insurgents and fighters affiliated with the Islamic State.
The service member was not identified.
President Ashraf Ghani's office has not commented on the reports of civilian deaths in Kunduz. But former president Hamid Karzai, who was sharply critical of the coalition over civilian casualties when he was in power, said Sunday that children and women were among the victims.
Both the Afghan Defense Ministry and the coalition confirmed that they had launched a joint offensive against the Taliban in Kunduz.
But citing the ministry's top commander in the area, the defense ministry said only militants were targeted and that more than 50 of them had lost their lives.
Lt. Jason Tross, a U.S. military spokesman, said the U.S.-led coalition was aware of the "allegations of potential civilian casualties" and was assessing it.
"We can confirm that an operation was conducted in Kunduz province" on Saturday, he said. The coalition, he said, "takes all allegations of civilian casualties and the responsibility of human life seriously, and is assessing the facts surrounding this incident."
Since significantly drawing down the number of troops in Afghanistan in late 2014, the U.S. military has increased its aerial attacks in the country, largely against Taliban militants who have gained grounds both in rural and urban areas.
The most deadly aerial attacks in Kunduz happened in 2015 and 2016 when the Taliban briefly took control of the center of the city of Kunduz.
More than 40 staff and patients of a Doctors Without Borders hospital died in a U.S. aerial attack in 2015 that drew stern international outcry. And last year, dozens of civilians were killed and wounded in U.S. aerial strikes on the outskirts of Kunduz city.