On Monday, at least 20 residents were killed, and several dozen others were injured after mortar shells struck a congested livestock market in the southern part of Afghanistan. The horrific attack is one that both the government and the Taliban are blaming each other for being responsible.
According to The New York Times, civilians living in the district of Sangin located in the province of Helmand stated the three mortar shells hit the area just as a crowd of almost 500 people and several hundred animals.
Local elders also said that the Second Brigade of the Afghan Army was responsible for firing the projectiles while having a base of operations located in the southwestern part of the district.
One civilian present at the scene of the incident, Saifullah Khan, said he observed the mixing of human and animal flesh. Khan noted he saw 25 people dying on the spot and that ten others died after receiving severe injuries.
The civilian also said that while the Taliban group had previously launched rockets to attack the army base the day before, the morning of Monday was relatively peaceful and there were no signs of fighting before the start of the bazaar.
Footage from the clinic of the district showed groups of people carrying victims of the assault with blood lining the floor of the compound while the sounds of children crying could be heard. The dead bodies of animals could be found lying still next to accessories sold in the bazaar, as reported by 24NewsOrder.
A medical charity, Emergency that operates a first-aid post located in Sangin stated a part of their facility was also affected by the mortal strikes but continued their efforts to treat those who were injured.
A program coordinator for the charity, Marco Puntin, said they had received thirty of the wounded at the Sangin First Aid Post, seven of whom sadly lost their lives before arriving due to the injuries they received in the explosions.
While the Afghan government denied that its forces were responsible for the attack, the Helmand provincial governor's office estimated the death toll to be 23 and announced that the Taliban group have previously attempted to attack military bases, have misfired their mortars which landed on civilians.
A spokesman for the governor, Omar Zwak, said that their military did not launch any artillery projectiles.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani's office wrote in a statement condemning the assault and considered it a terrorist attack. Sediq Sediqqi, the president's spokesman, accused the Taliban group of being responsible for the mortar strikes, as reported by The Daily James Online.
Amid the growing intensity of violence in Afghanistan, there is little to no accountability for civilian deaths. Most attacks are unclaimed while other bloody events lead to both sides accusing each other of being responsible while moving forward to more violence.
Rarely would investigations looking into the source of airstrikes or mortar attacks result in answers being made public. Frequent assassinations and targeted killing have further diminished opportunities for activists and human rights workers to demand answers on incidents that lead to civilian injuries or fatalities.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, accused the Afghan military of the Monday assault and said the government diverted the citizen's attention by framing their group using a car bomb as a premise.