NATO airstrike kills 10 civilians, Afghans say
A NATO airstrike struck two houses, killing 10 Afghan civilians and four insurgents near the Pakistani border, officials said Wednesday. President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, the latest in a series of civilian casualty reports that have raised tensions between the Afghans and the U.S.-led foreign forces.
The attack occurred about 10 p.m. Tuesday during a joint NATO-Afghan operation in the Shigal district of Kunar province, a lawmaker from the area said. The U.S.-led military alliance in Kabul said only that it was looking into the reports.
Wagma Sapay, a member of parliament from Kunar, said the civilians killed were in one house while four senior Taliban leaders were slain as they were gathering next door in the Chawkam area.
Karzai's office said 10 civilians, including women and children were killed, and four were wounded. It said a delegation was sent to the site to investigate.
The statement said Karzai "strongly condemns" the airstrike and "emphasizes that the fight against terrorism is not in the house and villages of Afghan people."
Provincial police chief Ewaz Mohammad Naziri said those killed included five boys, four women and one man.
The governor of Kunar, Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi, said the local government had not been informed about plans for the strike.
"This operation was by coalition and Afghan forces," he said. "We were not aware of it."
The killing of civilians at the hands of U.S. and other foreign forces has been one of the most contentious issues in the 11-year war.
Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said the alliance was aware of the allegations of civilian casualties in Kunar but could not confirm any details.
"We take these allegations very seriously and we are in the process of determining the circumstances surrounding this incident," he said.
The reported attack came as President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union speech that he will bring home within a year about half of the 66,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan in a step toward withdrawing all foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.
The U.N. body monitoring the rights of children said last week that attacks by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, including airstrikes, have reportedly killed hundreds of children over the last four years.
The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child said the casualties were "due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force."
ISAF, which is composed mainly of American forces, dismissed that claim, saying that it takes special care to avoid civilian casualties.