The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Tuesday blamed Afghan forces for firing mortar shells that hit a cattle market in Helmand province, leaving at least 23 civilians killed more than a dozen injured.

The mortar shells fired in a busy cattle market in Sangin district of Helmand province on early Monday morning left 23 people killed and another 15 injured, according to officials.

“UNAMA’s initial impartial findings indicate Afghan National Army mortars inflicted heavy civilian casualties Monday,” the UN agency said on Twitter.

“Multiple credible sources assert that the ANA fired lethal mortars in response to Taliban fire, missing intended target,” it continued.

Earlier, the Afghan officials blamed the Taliban group for being responsible for the attack and the Afghan President called the attack as “terrorist attack”. The Taliban, however, denied to claim responsibility for the attack, accusing the pro-government corps for being involved.

The insurgents group in a statement said that scores of civilians were killed and injured in Helmand’s Sangin district as they came under mortar firing by 215th Maiwand Army Corps.

The conflict-ravaged country saw a rise in violence in recent weeks ahead of intra-Afghan peace talks. According to reports, the direct peace talks are set to begin soon.

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