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US airstrikes hit southern Afghan district seized by Taliban, possible casualties

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KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. forces have launched multiple airstrikes on a district in southern Afghanistan seized by the Taliban the day before, U.S. officials said Thursday.

"U.S. forces conducted airstrikes in Musa Qala today against individuals threatening coalition and Afghan forces," Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, said without providing further details.

Afghan Army Brig. Gen. Mohammad Rasool Zaizai said Afghan and allied warplanes struck army and police headquarters in the Musa Qala district in northern Helmand province Thursday, likely killing fighters and civilians.

He said it was not possible to confirm casualty figures because insurgents control the area.

A U.S. defense official said more than a dozen U.S. airstrikes hit targets in Musa Qala over the past three days. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef says 30 civilians and 10 fighters were killed, but the Taliban often provide unreliable figures. Taliban insurgents overran Musa Qala on Wednesday after a weeklong assault on Afghan security forces.

The United States ended offensive combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 but retains the option to strike against terrorist targets and in situations where the Taliban are deemed to pose a threat to Afghan or allied forces. The U.S. recently launched airstrikes at leaders of the Islamic State's Afghan affiliate in northeastern Afghanistan.

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AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report from Washington.

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