Air strikes killed about 40 civilians: Afghan president
November 5, 2008
KABUL (AFP) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday around 40 civilians, including women and children, were killed in international air strikes that hit a village in southern Afghanistan.
Villagers had earlier said around 36 civilians were killed in Monday’s strike, which hit a wedding party, but Afghan authorities were unable to give a number of casualties.
The president “condemned the air strike which killed around 40 and wounded another 28 civilians in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province,” a statement from his office said.
Reports said the dead included women and children, the statement said.
“Safeguarding the life and property of the people of Afghanistan is one of the basic responsibilities of the Afghan government,” the president said.
“Once again we remind the coalition forces that by any way possible they should avoid civilian casualties and not allow the killing and injury of innocent people of Afghanistan for the sake of some criminal terrorists.”
There are about 70,000 international troops in Afghanistan, around half of them US nationals, helping the government fight an insurgency led by the extremist Taliban who were in government between 1996-2001.
After several incidents that caused civilian casualties, Karzai has urged them to avoid harming ordinary people in their operations, with the issue threatening to undermine support for his government and its allies.
Karzai said in the statement that Afghan villages were “not the place to fight terrorism” and would yield no success in efforts to defeat insurgents.
Instead, the coalition forces should “focus the war on terrorism on eradicating their nests, their training centres and the sources of equipment,” the president said.
He has long called for his international allies to attack militant sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan that he and others say are feeding fighters and weapons into the growing violence in Afghanistan.
The US Forces Afghanistan has acknowledged that some civilians were injured and maybe some were killed in Monday’s strikes intended to target militants in Shah Wali Kot.
An investigation was under way with the interior ministry, it said.
Villagers told AFP around 36 people were killed including relatives of the bride and groom, although the couple was alive.
Karzai, expressing his condolences, ordered Kandahar authorities to assist the wounded and the families of the dead.