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The Associated Press, January 3, 2007

Too many civilians killed by NATO in Afghanistan in 2006, official says

Brig. Richard E. Nugee, the chief spokesman for NATO: "NATO forces have killed far fewer civilians than the Taliban"

KABUL, Afghanistan: NATO acknowledged Wednesday that the number of civilians killed by its forces in Afghanistan last year was too high, but said the Western alliance was working to change that in 2007.

NATO victim in Lashkargah
Photos from NATO bomb victims by Maso Notarianni at the Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah
more photos and details | Photos Index

"The single thing that we have done wrong and we are striving extremely hard to improve on (in 2007) is killing innocent civilians," Brig. Richard E. Nugee, the chief spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said.

Nugee said the alliance has been reviewing for several weeks measures to bring down the number of civilian casualties.

However, he said NATO forces have killed far fewer civilians than the Taliban, which launched a record number of roadside and suicide bombs last year.

"There is absolutely no comparison to be made," he said. "The Taliban are killing significant numbers of their own people and showing no remorse at all."

According to NATO, militants launched a record 117 suicide attacks in 2006, about a six-fold increase over 2005, killing 206 Afghan civilians, 54 Afghan security personnel and 18 soldiers from NATO's ISAF.

NATO forces were accused of killing dozens of civilians last year in airstrikes during battle and gunfire from military convoys that felt threatened.

Airstrikes in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province in October were reported by Afghan authorities to have killed dozens of civilians, including some 20 members of one family.

A joint Afghan-NATO investigation into that incident has never been released. The New York Times has reported previously that the investigation found that 31 civilians were killed.

Nugee said that commanders have looked at the report "in very fine detail."

"While it has not come out publicly, it has made quite an impact on this headquarters," he said.

In the southern province of Helmand, meanwhile, NATO and Afghan troops killed 10 suspected Taliban fighters during a battle on Tuesday, said Ghalum Nabi Mullahkhail, the provincial police chief.

NATO and Afghan forces suffered no casualties, he said.

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