– A U.S. drone strike on a car carrying a woman who had just given birth in southeastern Afghanistan left five people dead, including the mother, three of her relatives and the driver, Afghan officials and family members said Sunday.

The strike was in Khost Province. The woman, Malana, 25, had given birth to a son, her second child, at home. But her health had deteriorated soon after and relatives were taking her to a clinic.

After the strike, there was confusion about whether the newborn was among the victims. Later, it became clear that the baby had not been in the car. A relative said the boy was safe at home.

The U.S. military command in Afghanistan confirmed a strike in Khost, saying that three Taliban fighters had been killed. "We are aware of the allegations of civilian casualties and working with local authorities to determine the veracity of these claims," said Col. Sonny Leggett, a military spokesman.

Gulmir Jan, a local tribal leader, said that hours after Malana had given birth, her health took a turn for the worse and her in-laws rushed her to the clinic. (Like most Afghans, the woman used one name.) A sister-in-law was among those in the car with her.

"Their vehicle was completely destroyed," Jan said.

Claims of civilian casualties by American or Afghan strikes often come from parts of the country that are hard to gain access to, and accounts are difficult to verify. In September, officials and residents in southern Helmand Province said airstrikes had targeted a wedding convoy, killing 40 people. But military officials disputed that account and days later released information that said a senior leader of al-Qaida had been killed in the strikes.

Civilian casualties reached a record in the third quarter of 2019, according to the United Nations, with 1,174 civilians killed and 3,139 others wounded. In its latest report, the U.N. said most of the casualties had been caused by the Taliban and other militants, but earlier in the year, it blamed Afghan and coalition forces for far more casualties than the Taliban.

New York Times