A NATO airstrike killed eight members of a family, includingchildren, according to Afghan officials who claim that such attacksdamage the civilian population's trust in international troops whohave been fighting in the country for more than a decade. The U.S.-led coalition said it was aware of the allegation and wasinvestigating the attack late Saturday in a remote part of Paktiaprovince. The killings of civilians by foreign forces has been a majorirritant in President Hamid Karzai's relationship with hisinternational partners. The Afghan leader warned earlier this monththat civilian casualties could undermine a strategic partnershipwith the U.S. that is to govern long-term relations after mostinternational troops withdraw by the end of 2014. |
NATO also reported Sunday that four coalition service members werekilled in separate roadside bomb attacks Saturday in southernAfghanistan, bringing to 166 the number of NATO deaths so far thisyear. The British Ministry of Defence said one of its soldiers was killedSaturday in an explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj region of southernHelmand province. The nationalities of the others killed were notreleased. Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the provincial governor, saidMohammad Shafi, his wife and their six children died in anairstrike around 8 p.m.
in Suri Khail village of Gurda Sariadistrict. "Shafi was not a Taliban. He was not in any opposition groupagainst the government. He was a villager," Samon said.
"Right now,we are working on this case to find out the ages of their childrenand how many of them are boys and girls." Officials probing allegation Karzai said he has sent a delegation to the village to investigatethe incident. NATO also said it was investigating. "We acknowledge that coalition forces were conducting an operationin Paktia province against a large number of insurgents last nightand we also are aware of the media reports today of civiliancasualty allegations in that area," Army Lt. Col.
Jimmie Cummings,a coalition spokesman, said. Taliban attacks have killed more civilians than foreign forces, butpublic anger over the issue is usually directed at theinternational community. Tensions spiked after Afghan officials reported that 18 civilianshad died recently in four airstrikes in Logar, Kapisa, Badghis andHelmand provinces. That led Karzai to issue his warning earlierthis month. "If the lives of Afghan people are not safe, the signing of thestrategic partnership has no meaning," Karzai's office said.
Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghanwar, with 3,021 killed as insurgents ratcheted up violence withsuicide attacks and roadside bombs, the United Nations said in itslatest report on civilian deaths. The UN attributed 77 per cent ofthe deaths to insurgent attacks and 14 per cent to actions byinternational and Afghan troops. Nine per cent of cases wereclassified as having an unknown cause. Elsewhere, two civilians were killed Sunday when their vehiclestruck a roadside bomb in Marjah district of Helmand province inthe south, provincial spokesman Daud Ahmadi said.
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