KABUL, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Afghans have expressed mixed reaction to the alleged U.S. strikes on drug processing and heroin labs in the poppy-growing Helmand province, which reportedly have claimed scores of lives including militants and drug traffickers.
The U.S. military, according to local officials and media reports, conducted airstrikes against drug producing factories in Bahramcha, Musa Qala, Kajaki, Nawzad and Washir districts of the southern Helmand province on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, destroying some 20 heroin labs besides killing more than 50 people including drug smugglers.
Helmand's provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi confirmed to Xinhua the bombardment of drug producing factories.
"The decision of the plan has been taken by the central government," he said, without providing details.
Meanwhile, a local official on condition of anonymity told Xinhua on Wednesday that "up to 44 alleged drug smugglers were killed after the U.S. aircraft conducted air strikes against Taliban-run heroin labs in Bahramcha area of Dishu districts on Tuesday night."
Spokesman for Helmand's provincial government Omar Zawak also confirmed the raids but declined to provide details.
However, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said in a statement on Monday that "Afghan and U.S. forces launched a new campaign to destroy Taliban's funding network" in southern Helmand province.
"Over the past 24 hours, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted combined operations to strike seven Taliban drug labs and one command-and-control node in Kajaki, Musa Qalah and Sangin districts of Helmand province" the statement said.
"The strikes are just the beginning, and it represents the U.S. and global will to defeat terror and the criminals who support terrorists," it quoted Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led mission, as saying.
Bahramcha, a remote area along the border with Pakistan, is a hub of illicit drug from where part of Afghanistan's narcotics is trafficked abroad.
Spokespersons for the Taliban have, however, rejected the allegation and stressed that the armed group is running no heroin labs in Helmand or elsewhere in Afghanistan.
The Taliban outfit has also claimed that all those lost their lives in the airstrikes were civilians.
The strikes have reportedly been sharply criticized by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a violation of Afghan sovereignty.
In a statement released by his office, Karzai expressed concerns over the alleged death of 10 members of a single family in Mosa Qala district in the airstrikes, saying such airstrikes by the U.S. forces demonstrated the clear violation of U.S. forces of the Afghan sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Ali Mohammad, a resident of Helmand province, said that targeting heroin labs believed to be the financial resource of Taliban militants would help the country to achieve peace.
Echoing the notion, another Helmand resident Nazar Mohammad also told Xinhua that crippling Taliban financial machine can help the government win the war against insurgents.
"Some 80 percent of Afghanistan's narcotics are produced in Helmand province where Taliban militants have stronger presence than in any other province in the country, so therefore destroying heroin labs which funds Taliban to continue the war is a welcome step by Afghans," Kabul resident and senior journalist Khan Mohammad Daneshjo said.