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Afghans say NATO attack killed 65 civilians

Associated Press / February 28, 2011

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Sixty-five civilians, including 40 children, were killed in a NATO assault on insurgents in eastern Afghanistan earlier this month, according to findings of an Afghan government investigation released yesterday.

Tribal leaders had alleged that dozens of civilians were killed in the operation in Kunar Province, which involved rocket and air strikes, but NATO has not confirmed any civilian deaths.

The incident inflamed tensions between the Afghan government and NATO forces, and both sides opened investigations.

Civilian deaths have been increasing in recent months as insurgents appear to become more indiscriminate in their targets, attacking banks, supermarkets, and sporting events. At least three separate attacks yesterday, including one targeting spectators at an illegal dog fight, killed nine Afghan civilians and two NATO service members, officials said.

But allegations of civilian deaths from NATO forces, who pledge to protect the population, often cause much more anger.

NATO has said that video of Kunar operations on Feb. 17 — the main event of more than three days of fighting — showed troops targeting and killing insurgents, not civilians.

However, the Afghan team investigating the incident found that 65 civilians had been killed, including 40 children age 13 and under, said Shahzada Masoud, one of the investigators. The group presented its findings yesterday to President Hamid Karzai. The team reached its conclusions after four days of interviews with local authorities, residents, hospital officials, and security forces, said Masoud.

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