March 26, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike targeting Taliban fighters accidentally killed and wounded an unspecified number of civilians Friday in the southern province of Helmand, one of the most insecure regions in the country, NATO officials said on Saturday.
NATO officials are investigating the episode. It occurred when the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force called in an airstrike on two vehicles believed to be carrying a Taliban leader and his associates. A NATO team assessing the damage discovered the civilians following the airstrike. NATO officials have not disclosed how many civilians were killed and wounded, and did not say whether suspected Taliban were among the casualties.
Civilian casualties has been one of the most contentious issues in Afghanistan, exacerbating tensions in the delicate relationship between international forces and President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Karzai raised the issue again in a speech on Tuesday, listing the reduction of civilian deaths as an issue that must be addressed as Afghan forces begin taking over responsibility for security in some areas of the country beginning this summer.
A United Nations report earlier this month said that 2,777 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2010, the deadliest toll in more than nine years of war. The Taliban were blamed for 75 percent of the deaths. The number of deaths by NATO forces declined 26 percent. But a number of high-profile episodes have led to continuing strains between NATO and the Afghan government.
This article was posted: Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 3:14 am