NATO airstrike accidentally kills 7 civilians in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — A provincial governor in Afghanistan’s dangerous south said yesterday that seven civilians were accidentally killed when a NATO helicopter fired on two vehicles believed to be carrying Taliban fighters.
Civilian casualties have long been a source of friction between the US-led international force and President Hamid Karzai, who has bluntly told the coalition that they must end. A recent UN report said at least 2,777 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, with about three-quarters of the deaths blamed on the insurgency.
The international alliance said it was investigating the strike, which occurred Friday in the Naw Zad district of Helmand Province. The helicopter airstrike followed intelligence reports that suggested a Taliban leader and his associates were in the vehicles, NATO said.
In the aftermath of the strike, coalition troops found bodies of civilians in the wreckage, NATO said. It did not release the number of the dead and wounded.
A statement issued by the Helmand provincial governor’s office said seven people — two men, two women, and three children — were killed when coalition forces fired on the suspects. Those killed were in another vehicle traveling near the targeted ones. Five others Afghan civilians — a man, woman, and three children — were wounded, the governor’s office said.
Provincial Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal condemned the civilian casualties.
The deaths came only two days after the international coalition accidentally killed two civilians in the eastern province of Khost. The two were walking near a car with suspected insurgents and were not seen until after a NATO helicopter gunship launched Wednesday’s strike, NATO said.
At least four other people were killed in three separate attacks in southern Afghanistan on Friday, including a child, a NATO soldier, and two civilians on a motorcycle.
The child was killed in a bomb attack outside the home of a high-ranking Afghan border police officer in Kandahar Province, according to the Afghan interior ministry. The bomber was injured and is in critical condition, Afghan police said. Four other people were wounded in the explosion, police said.
A coalition soldier died after an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, NATO announced. The international force provided no other details about the casualty, pending notification of relatives.
The death brings to 26 the number of NATO service members who have died this month in Afghanistan.
Also on Friday, two civilians riding on a motorcycle were killed by a roadside explosive in the southern province of Zabul.
Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices killed at least 1,141 civilians in the conflict in 2010, the UN said.
International troops have been trying to pacify the restive south, the heartland of the Taliban, and have met fierce resistance.
Karzai, who traveled to Iran for a Persian New Year’s ceremony, wants his security forces to be in charge throughout the country by the end of 2014.