PAN, November 5, 2009
NATO strike kills nine civilians in Helmand, Afghanistan
"I lost four members of my family. They included my three sons and a son-in-law working in the fields" said another elder Syed Gul.
Zainullah Stanikzai & Hashmi
LASHKARGAH: Artillery and mortar shelling by the NATO-led international troops killed nine civilians in southern Afghanistan, locals said.
However, Afghan and NATO officials claimed only militants were killed in the mortar shelling on the outskirts of Lashkargah, capital of the southern Helmand province, on Wednesday evening.
People, who brought bodies of their slain relatives to Lashkargah, said the dead included three children and six men. They died as a mortar shell landed in the fields covered with maize crop, said the locals.
Haji Shah Muhammad, a tribal elder from Babaji area on the outskirts of the provincial capital, told Pajhwok Afghan News the victims were busy collecting the harvest.
"I lost four members of my family. They included my three sons and a son-in-law working in the fields" said another elder Syed Gul. The foreigners were intentionally targeting civilians, said Nisar Ahmad, a third resident of the area.
Nisar said Taliban were patrolling on motorbikes in the area in broad daylight but the foreign troops did not take any action against them.
Relatives of the victims also staged a protest demonstration against the foreign troops. They chanted slogans against the NATO troops and demanded their withdrawal from the country. They also asked for probe into the civilian casualties.
Press office of the NATO-led ISAF in Lashkargah confirmed the attack, but said only militants, planting bombs to target the local and Afghan troops, were killed.
Officials at the press office rejected locals' claim regarding civilian casualties. At the same time, they said investigations would be conducted into the incident.
Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, also said only militants were killed in the overnight attack.
The civilian casualties in Helmand reported just a day after the killing of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman in the province. The policeman managed to flee the scene.
In the eastern Nuristan province, three minor girls and two boys died in blast caused by an unexploded mortar shell.
Provincial Governor Jamaluddin Badar said the explosion took place in Bargimatal district. He said two more boys suffered injuries. They were rushed to hospital where their condition is stated to be stable.
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