Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has risked a fresh rift with his Western supporters and condemned American forces for an air attack in which his government says 76 civilians were killed.
Ignoring denials by coalition forces that any civilians had died in the bombing of Azizabad village in northwest Afghanistan, he rebuked the foreign forces for their carelessness.
“Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemns the unco-ordinated air strike by coalition forces in Shindand district of Herat province which resulted in the death of at least 70 people including women and children,” Mr Karzai’s office said.
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The US military has started an investigation, but said it was “very confident” that only 30 people had been killed – all militants.
If the Afghan government’s death toll proves correct, it would mean the raid was the deadliest visited on civilians since US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Western reporters who visited the village, where angry locals protested against the air raid, saw the remains of houses and freshly laid graves.
A local security official said shots had to be fired to disperse the enraged crowd, which had torched a police car and blocked the highway to Herat for several hours.
Mr Karzai has now appointed the religious affairs minister, Nehmatullah Shahrani, to visit the area and investigate the truth of what happened.