A NATO airstrike on a pickup truck in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar has killed at least 10 people. Afghan officials allege that a number of civilians, including children, were among those who died in the attack.
The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan has confirmed only that it carried out a “precision strike” in Watapur district in eastern Kunar province late on Saturday. According to the coalition, the strike had killed 10 “enemy forces,” but that it had no reports of civilian casualties.
Afghan officials, however, say that several civilians, including children, were caught up in the airstrike. They said the truck was hit after the driver gave the Taliban fighters a lift.
Reports on the number of civilian casualties differ, with Kunar provincial governor Shujaul Mulk Jalala telling the AFP news agency that 12 civilians were killed, along with four insurgents belonging to the terrorist network al Qaeda.
Kunar police chief Abdul Habib Sayed Khil told AFP that 10 civilians had died in the attack.
“President Hamid Karzai termed the attack on women and children against all internationally agreed principles and strongly condemned it,” Karzai’s office said in a statement
Kunar province, which shares a border with lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, is considered a transit hub for foreign insurgents, including al Qaeda militants who fight alongside the Taliban.
Civilian casualties in NATO operations are a longstanding source of tension between the Afghan government and US-led NATO troops. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has forbidden Afghan troops to to call for foreign airstrikes, though the ban is not always heeded.
NATO troops are winding down operations in Afghanistan as they prepare to withdraw by the end of next year. Violence in the country has grown as Afghan security forces gradually take over. The UN says nearly 1,000 civilians were killed in the first half of 2013, a 23 percent increase over the same period last year.
tj/ipj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)