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The Washington Post, June 22, 2007

NATO Airstrike Kills Dozens of Civilians in Afghanistan

Provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal put the civilian death toll at 25

By Griff Witte

KABUL - An airstrike by NATO-led forces killed dozens of civilians as well as Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan late Thursday, according to Afghan officials.

Taliban fighters had fled to a residential area after attacking NATO troops in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, said Mohammed Anwar Esaqzai, a member of parliament who represents Helmand. NATO responded with an airstrike that killed 36 civilians belonging to three separate families, Esaqzai said.

Her father, mother and sister were killed
RAWA: This 9-year-old girl told journalists that her father, mother and sisters were killed by the US troops in Nangahar province on April 29, 2007

Provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal put the civilian death toll at 25. He said that among the dead were nine women, three babies and a local Muslim cleric.

"This is happening a lot," Esaqzai said. "If it continues to happen, it will raise the anger of the people and cause big problems for NATO."

NATO forces acknowledged that civilians may have been killed or injured as a result of the battle.

"We're certainly not disputing the figures. But we haven't been able to get into the area to confirm them," said Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

According to Smith's account, insurgents attacked a contingent of British troops operating in the area around 9 p.m. Thursday, and the troops responded with small-arms fire. They later called in an airstrike on a compound that was believed to be housing 30 militants. NATO said most of the militants were killed.

"We did not identify any civilians in the area at the time," he said. "Otherwise we would not have opened fire."

NATO forces returned to the area Friday morning to look for wounded civilians, but Taliban members who were taking part in a funeral opened fire on the approaching troops. After withdrawing, the troops returned several hours later, and a firefight was continuing early Friday evening.

Air strikes called in by US special forces’ soldiers fighting with insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed at least 21 civilians, officials said today
Zee News, May 9, 2007

Smith said any civilian deaths in the incident would be "tragic," but he blamed the Taliban for deliberately putting civilians in the line of fire.

The issue of civilian casualties has become a major flashpoint in the Afghan war this year. The deaths in Gereshk, if they are confirmed, would bring to at least 177 the number of civilians killed this year in NATO or U.S.-led military operations, according to a tally from the Associated Press based on official and witness reports. The AP says an additional 169 civilians have been killed in attacks by militants, including a recent series of suicide bombings.

In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the large number of civilian casualties in U.S. and NATO-led operations was "difficult for us to accept or understand." Karzai and his government have frequently accused international forces of not doing all they can to protect civilian lives.

U.S.-led forces killed seven Afghan police officers and injured four others during a firefight that broke out after each side mistook the other for a group of insurgents, Afghan officials said Tuesday.
Washington Post, June 12, 2007

"Every effort has to be made for it to stop," he said in the BBC interview. "Every detail has to be worked out . . . in order for civilians to stop being casualties."

News of the deaths in Helmand came on a day when NATO forces accused the Taliban of using "illegal, immoral methods to fight." The tactics have allegedly included placing a suicide vest on a 6-year-old boy and telling him to push a button as he walked up to a group of Afghan police or army officers. NATO said in a statement that the boy did not understand, and he ultimately asked the officers why he was wearing the vest.

"This type of action is not tolerated by any culture or any people," said Maj. Donald A. Korpi, a spokesman for NATO's eastern regional command.

Category: US-NATO - Views: 7139


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