Afghan Officials: NATO Air Strike Killed 9 Civilians (Including Women & Children
Afghan officials have said an apparent Nato air strike has killed 15 people – nine of them civilians, including women and children – in an eastern province where the Taliban remain strong. Nato said 10 militants (which is vaguely defined by the Obama Administration as males of ‘military-age to prevent civilian casualty counts) had died in the strike, and that it had no reports of any civilian deaths.
The Kunar province police chief Abdul Habib Sayed Khaili said the air strike had hit a pickup truck carrying the women and children in Qoro village soon after three Arab and three Afghan militants boarded it on Saturday evening. He said some reports had called it a drone strike, but that Afghan officials had been unable to confirm that. Of the 15 dead, four were women, four were children and one was the driver, the police official said.
The Watapur district chief Zalmai Yousefi confirmed the air strike. He also said 15 people had been killed, including women and children.
The Nato spokeswoman 1st Lieutenant AnnMarie Annicelli confirmed that the military alliance had carried out a “precision strike” that killed 10 “enemy forces”, but that it had received no reports of any civilians dying in the air strike. Annicelli had no immediate details on who exactly the dead were or what prompted the strike.
Even as US-led foreign forces draw down their presence in Afghanistan, with a full exit expected by the end of 2014, the air support they provide to Afghan troops in many regions is still a crucial part of operations against the Taliban.
Past strikes that killed civilians have infuriated Afghans. The president, Hamid Karzai, has spoken out forcefully against them and banned Afghan troops from requesting Nato air strikes during operations in residential areas.
As the violence in Afghanistan has spread, civilians are increasingly getting caught up in the conflict.
Around 1,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded in the first half of this year – a huge portion of them in insurgent attacks – according to the UN. That marked a 24% rise in casualties compared to the same period last year.