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PAN, February 15, 2010

NATO missiles kill 12 Afghan civilians in Helmand

The victims included 10 members of a family.

S. Mudassir Ali Shah

People of Marjha flee their homes
Afghan civilians, who have fled from Marjha, sit on the back of a pick-up truck as they arrive in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010. (Photo: AP)

KABUL: Despite assurances from NATO and Afghan officials to minimize the collateral damage during an ongoing offensive in southern Helmand province, a dozen civilians were killed on Sunday.

"Two rockets launched at insurgents firing upon Afghan and ISAF forces impacted approximately 300 meters off their intended target, killing 12 civilians in Nad Ali district," the International Security Assistance Force said.

President Hamid Karzai, who repeatedly directed the soldiers ahead of the sweep to make every effort possible to save civilians, voiced deep shock over the deaths and injuries. The victims included 10 members of a family.

On receiving the tragic news, his office said, the president directed the authorities concerned to launch an immediate probe into the civilian slayings. He ordered the involvement of area elders in the investigation to determine the cause of the occurrence and sought a report from officials.While conveying his apologies to Karzai for the unfortunate incident that happened during the biggest assaults in eight years, the overall NATO commander in Afghanistan said: "We deeply regret this tragic loss of life."

Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in a statement released by ISAF: "The current operation in Helmand is aimed at restoring security and stability to this vital area of Afghanistan. It's regrettable that in the course of our joint efforts, innocent lives were lost."

He extended heartfelt sympathies to the government and affected families and promised that the troops taking part in the Operation Moshtarak would do all they could to avoid a repeat of such incidents.Pending a thorough review of the incident, ISAF suspended the use of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). It added the original target was a compound where insurgents were delivering accurate, direct fire on an Afghan-ISAF joint team.

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier and ISAF service member were injured by the militants' fire, according to the multinational force.ISAF CASUALTY: Also on Sunday, an ISAF soldier died following an IED strike in southern Afghanistan. In line with its policy, the force deferred identification procedures for casualties to the relevant national authorities.

The Guardian, Feb.14, 2010:

Two Nato rockets aimed at Taliban insurgents in Helmand missed their target today, killing 12 civilians sheltering in their home and dealing a sharp blow to hopes that civilian casualties would be avoided in the largest western-led operation of the nine-year Afghan war.

The incident occurred in Nad Ali, an insurgent-infested area where British troops are operating. A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the rockets, which were fired by a sophisticated missile system, were a "US responsibility".

Category: US-NATO, HR Violations - Views: 7940