UPI, March 24, 2011

Local official: NATO airstrike kills Afghan child

In addition to the child, two civilian men and a woman were injured

NATO said Thursday it will investigate a police claim a NATO helicopter gunship targeting terrorists killed a child in the eastern Afghan Khost province.

Coalition forces opened fire from the attack helicopter on a car carrying a group of suspected Haqqani network terrorists Wednesday but accidentally hit another vehicle, killing the child, Khost Police Chief Abdul Hakim Esahaqaai told reporters.

The Haqqani network is an independent insurgent group in Afghanistan and Pakistan closely allied with the Taliban Islamist militia group.

In addition to the child, two civilian men and a woman were injured, Esahaqaai said.

NATO's statement about the attack did not mention hitting the other car. But it said its forces inadvertently killed two civilians on the street while attacking the suspected insurgents.

"At the time of the strike, two civilians were walking near the moving targeted vehicle," NATO said. "They were previously unseen by coalition forces prior to the initiation of the airstrike. Unfortunately both were killed as an unintended result of the strike."

The "precision airstrike" killed a Haqqani leader and two other insurgents in the targeted vehicle, NATO said.

Accidental civilian casualties due to coalition troop operations are a major source of strain between Afghanistan and NATO.

Separately, NATO said Thursday two coalition troops were killed by an improvised bomb in southern Afghanistan, bringing to 23 the number of coalition service members killed in Afghanistan this month. NATO did not say which countries the troops were from.

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