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27 Afghan civilians killed in NATO strikes, local officials say

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) – A local investigation has found 27 civilians were killed in NATO-led air strikes in northeast Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Wednesday.

The villagers were killed during last week’s strikes in Kunar province that targeted suspected militants at a funeral and a house, governor Shalizai Didar said, citing the results of his local government probe.

Four health volunteers were also among those killed, health officials said.

“Four volunteers, for polio vaccination campaign were killed in the bombing. The campaign has been postponed in the area,” an official with the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) told AFP.

They were volunteers, the official said but asked not to be named.

The local public health chief, Asadullah Fazli also confirmed the casualties but said only three volunteers were killed.

“Three volunteers were killed. They happened to be in the village when it was bombed,” Fazli told AFP.

Didar said 37 Taliban-led militants were also killed in the strikes on Thursday and Friday in the restive province’s Watapour district.

“We investigated the incident and found out that 27 civilians and 37 Taliban were killed,” the governor told AFP.

Three of the militants killed were Arab and two were Pakistani, he said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, which is fighting a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, said there may have been civilian deaths, although it could not confirm the findings of the local investigation.

“From ISAF’s perspective, we are not aware of civilian casualties, but we do know from governor Didar, who is conducting the investigation and who is looking further at the matter, that there may have been civilian casualties,” NATO spokesperson Maria Carl said.

“He has also said on the record that he believes that most of the civilian casualties were probably used as human shields by the insurgents,” Lieutenant Colonel Carl said.

“We don’t have an independent investigation under way, so obviously, I would trust the governor’s investigation,” she said.

Another spokesperson, Major John Thomas, earlier told AFP that “NATO targeted enemy positions” and was unaware of civilian deaths.

“If there were any civilians killed, we very much regret that,” he said.

ISAF troops and a separate US-led coalition force have been under pressure from rights groups and the Afghan government to avoid civilian deaths during their operations against the Taliban rebels.

More than 50,000 foreign troops are based in Afghanistan to help authorities defeat the remnants of the Taliban waging an insurgency since their 2001 ouster from power by a US-led offensive.

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Written by afghandevnews

July 11, 2007 at 10:08 pm

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