At least six key Taliban commanders involved in major assaults in Herat province were targeted in the air raids.

Air strikes in eastern Afghanistan killed 45 people, including civilians and Taliban fighters, local officials said on Wednesday.

Ali Ahmad Faqir Yar, governor of Adraskan district in the eastern Afghan province of Herat, said at least eight civilians were among the dead.

“Forty-five people had been killed so far in air strikes by security forces in the Kham Ziarat area. Taliban were among those killed,” he said.

It was unclear how many of the remaining 37 were civilians and how many were members of the Taliban.

Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement two air strikes in Herat killed eight civilians and wounded 12. Two local officials confirmed there had been two rounds of air raids.

“Such attacks would compel recently freed prisoners who wish to live normal lives to take up arms once again against the enemy,” said Ahmadi.

‘Spare no effort’

Afghanistan’s defence ministry said it was investigating allegations of civilian casualties in attacks by Afghan forces in the area.

“The results of the investigation will be shared with the public and the media. The National Defense and Security Forces have the responsibility to protect the lives and property of the people, in this regard, they use all the opportunities and facilities and will not spare any effort,” a statement said.

Habib Amini, a local official in neighbouring Guzara district, confirmed the incident and said 45 people were killed and more injured.

A spokesman for United States forces in Afghanistan said they had not taken part in Wednesday’s air strikes.

Jailani Farhad, spokesman for the Herat governor, told Anadolu news agency at least six key Taliban commanders involved in major assaults in Herat were targeted in the air raids. He said the civilian casualties were caused by a land mine blast nearby.

Fragile deal

The US is winding back troops under an agreement with the Taliban struck in February, which was meant to pave the way to formal peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government.

However, disagreement over the release of prisoners demanded by the Taliban and rising violence around the country have hampered progress, and talks have yet to start.

The fragile Afghan peace deal hinges on the prisoner exchanges. In line with the landmark US-Taliban peace agreement, about 5,000 Taliban prisoners should have been released from government prisons in return for the estimated 1,000 captive security forces in March.

But, according to the National Security Council, the government has released 4,019 Taliban so far, while the Taliban freed about half of the 1,000 prisoners it agreed to release.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said recently in the first six months of this year a total of 1,213 civilians were killed, while 1,744 had been wounded in 880 incidents.