Civilian deaths in Afghan clash confirmed
KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO acknowledged that an undetermined number of Afghan civilians were killed yesterday in fighting with the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan and promised to provide compensation to their families.
Also yesterday, a suicide car bomber struck a convoy of NATO troops and Afghan police in northern Afghanistan, killing seven police officers and wounding at least 11 people. A Canadian Chinook helicopter went down in the south, slightly injuring eight soldiers, the Canadian military said. The Taliban claimed they shot down the aircraft.
The civilian deaths occurred in two separate attacks before dawn yesterday in eastern Nangarhar Province, local officials said. Eight members of an extended family died when a helicopter opened fire on vehicles carrying the family and the body of a flood victim to their home village, according to Haji Mohammed Hassan, chief of Khogyani district of Nangarhar.
Separately, 13 people were killed when US and Afghan forces raided a compound in the Sherzad district, according to village elder Rahmatullah Sherzad.
NATO first reported that a joint force targeted a compound in the village of Khwazakheyl in the province’s Sherzad district looking for a Taliban commander. Troops took fire from three locations as they approached the compound. They returned fire, killing “several insurgents,’’ the NATO statement said.
Troops found 10 rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, grenades, and a recoilless rifle at the scene, the statement added.
Sherzad, the village elder, said by phone that the joint force surrounded the home of a villager, Mohammad Jan. Family members opened fire because they feared for their safety, he said, insisting they were not Taliban.
Later, NATO issued a second statement saying “it appears that between four and a dozen or more civilians were killed’’ during operations in Nangarhar. The statement said between 15 and 20 insurgents, including two senior Taliban commanders, were killed in the fighting in Khwazakheyl. It made no mention of an air attack against vehicles.
“Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life and we express our sincerest condolences to the families,’’ said Rear Admiral Greg Smith, director of communication for the NATO-led force.