NATO accused of killing 10 Afghan civilians in air strike
KABUL (AFP) – A NATO air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women or children, Afghan officials said Wednesday, as Kabul welcomed President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw more US troops.
NATO forces said they were investigating the claims of civilian deaths.
“We take every allegation of civilian casualties very seriously,” a spokesman said. If the deaths are confirmed it will be another blow to the prestige of US-led forces as they prepare to withdraw combat troops from the war against Taleban insurgents by the end of next year. The civilians were killed by a NATO air strike during an overnight raid on a Taleban hideout in a remote eastern region, local officials said.
“Five children, four women and a man were killed in the raid,” Kunar provincial governor Sayed Fazulullah Wahidi told AFP. Three Taleban commanders, including a notorious al-Qaeda-linked militant leader called Shahpoor, were also killed in the raid, said district governor Abdul Zahir. Zahir said the civilians were killed in the air raid in support of a ground operation by US-led coalition and Afghan forces in a Taleban-controlled valley in the insurgency-plagued region. It was not clear if the owner of the targeted house was a member of the Taleban or a civilian, but the Taleban were visiting when the home was attacked, he added. The Taleban often force villagers to provide them with food and shelter.
Four other children were wounded in the raid, Wahidi said.
Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces are a highly sensitive issue and are regularly condemned by President Hamid Karzai. He has often said the war against terrorism should not be fought in Afghan villages and his government welcomed Obama’s announcement that the United States will withdraw 34,000 troops over the next year.