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EU complains about civilian deaths in Afghanistan

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Mon May 14, 3:19 PM ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said Monday that he had complained to NATO about the increased number of civilian casualties during US-led military operations in Afghanistan.

“I have told the NATO Secretary General … that we have to make sure that such operations are not carried out in the future,” said Jung, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of next month.

“We must ensure that operations do not develop this way. It would not be a victory to set the (Afghan) people against us,” he said, after talks between EU defence ministers in Brussels.

Some 20 Afghan villagers were killed last week in an operation by US-led coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials.

The coalition is smarting from claims of mounting civilian casualties after nearly 60 other people were said to have been killed in its operations late last month, according to investigations and residents.

A NATO spokesman confirmed that Jung and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had discussed the issue at a working dinner held by the defence ministers.

“The two leaders agreed that everything must be done to reduce the number of civilian casualties,” the spokesman said.

A NATO diplomat said the problem could be raised at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday during a routine weekly meeting between ambassadors from the 26 NATO member countries.

NATO is leading a force of some 37,000 troops from 37 nations in Afghanistan which is trying to extend the political reach of President Hamid Karzai’s weak central government to more lawless outlying regions.

The US-led coalition is a separate force around 10,000-strong which, while it does coordinate with the NATO-led contingent, is mainly involved in “anti-terror” operations.

“We have to rebuild confidence and do everything we can to ensure that, in the future, we gain visibility” among the population by making progress with reconstruction work, said Jung.

Germany has some 3,000 military personnel deployed in Afghanistan with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), most of them in the relatively peaceful north of the conflict-torn country.

Almost none are assigned in the south or east where Taliban fighters backed by war lords and drug runners have been waging an insurgency.

Helmand provincial governor Assadullah Wafa said last week that foreign war planes bombed a village in the Sangin district late Tuesday, and that 21 civilians, including women and children were killed.

A man from the bombed village of Sarwan Qala told AFP that about 30 died.

The coalition said only that it was involved in an “engagement” in the same area of Sangin but made no mention of air strikes.

It said a coalition soldier was killed there when an Afghan and coalition convoy was attacked by Taliban fighters.

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Written by afghandevnews

May 16, 2007 at 4:25 am

Posted in Security

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