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UN says attack targeted civilians

Afghan National Army soldiers were at a destroyed courthouse in Farah on Thursday after a Taliban suicide attack.

Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images

Afghan National Army soldiers were at a destroyed courthouse in Farah on Thursday after a Taliban suicide attack.

KABUL — Afghan officials released harrowing new details Thursday about an attack in a western province where assailants shot everyone in their path, sending terrified people jumping from windows to escape assailants who killed at least 46 civilians and security forces.

Civilians have frequently been caught up in the fighting between militants and Afghan and US-led combat forces, but the United Nations condemned Wednesday’s attack, saying civilians were targeted at the courthouse and other government offices in Farah Province. Two judges, six prosecutors, administration officers, and cleaners working at the site were among the dead, the UN said.

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Also Thursday, NATO reported that an American F-16 jet had crashed in Eastern Afghanistan, killing the US pilot. The US-led military coalition did not release details.

‘‘While the cause of the crash is under investigation, initial reporting indicates there was no insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash,’’ the coalition said in a statement.

An airstrike by US-led forces mistakenly killed four policemen and two brothers as their car was being searched at a checkpoint in Eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan official said Thursday. The strike occurred in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni Province, according to district chief Fazel Ahmad Toolwak. He said NATO troops were fighting Taliban militants about 6 miles away, but those killed in the strike were not involved in that battle.

A NATO spokesman, US Army­ Major Adam Wojack, said the international military coalition was looking into the report, adding it ‘‘takes all allegations of this type seriously.’’

According to a recent UN report, 2,754 Afghan civilians were killed last year, down 12 percent from 3,131 killed in 2011. But the number killed in the second half of last year rose, suggesting Afghanistan is likely to face continued violence as the Taliban and other militants fight for control of the country as foreign forces withdraw.

‘Farah is a city of sadness. The stores are closed. There’s no traffic in the streets.’

Humaira Ayobi, legislator 
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The UN said the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 81 percent of the civilian deaths and injuries last year, while 8 percent were attributed to pro-government forces. The remaining civilian deaths and injuries could not be attributed.

The number of casualties blamed on US and allied forces decreased by 46 percent, with 316 killed and 271 wounded last year. Most were killed in US and NATO airstrikes, although that number, too, dropped by nearly half last year to 126, including 51 children.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Farah, near the border with Iran.

The hospital in Farah was so overwhelmed with casualties that helicopters had to ferry some of the wounded to other hospitals in nearby areas.

Provincial Governor Akram Akhpelwak said two more people had died from the attack, raising the death toll to 55 — 36 civilians, 10 Afghan security forces, and nine attackers. More than 100 people were wounded, he said.

One of the province’s members of Parliament, Humaira Ayobi, said an elderly man was found hiding in a bathroom.

‘‘Farah is a city of sadness,’’ she said after attending a funeral for some of the victims. ‘‘The stores are closed. There’s no traffic in the streets.’’

The attack began when two suicide bombers detonated an explosives-laden vehicle near the courthouse, shattering windows and devastating several buildings. Seven others jumped out of the pickup and ran toward the courthouse and attorney general’s office, prompting an eight-hour gun battle that left many buildings pockmarked from bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ayobi said the attackers went from room to room shooting people, including nearly two dozen people who had taken refuge in a basement. She also­ said two judges were singled out to be killed in a separate room, and their bodies were burned.

The attackers wore military-style uniforms easily bought in Afghan markets and had painted a pickup in camouflage to disguise it as an Afghan National Army vehicle so it could bypass checkpoints, she said.

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