At least 52 people were killed in two airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday prompting a “last warning” from President Hamid Karzai to the US military to avoid operations that kill civilians.
The air raids took place in Helmand and Nuristan provinces. Local authorities in Helmand said that US Marines called in air support after their base in Nawzad district came under attack from small arms fire on Sunday.
“During the airstrike, two civilian houses were targeted which killed 14 civilians and six others were wounded,” the provincial administration said in a statement.
The statement said the dead included five girls, seven boys and two women. The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said it was investigating the allegations.
“Isaf are aware of the reports that civilians were allegedly killed in an Isaf air strike,” spokesman Major Tim James told AFP. “(The) Regional Command South West has sent a joint assessment team to the area to look into the allegation and they will issue their findings to the press.”
Footage and pictures from the troubled region showed turbaned men carrying the bodies of children and showing them to unseen journalists.
Aslam, a local elder of Nawzad district, told AFP he “lost 12 relatives while 10 others including children were injured” in the airstrike.
He said some shots were fired at Isaf helicopters which flew into the area, adding that the choppers returned after 10 to 20 minutes and fired rockets, killing the “innocent civilians”.
Separately, 20 Afghan policemen and 18 civilians were killed by “friendly fire” during Nato airstrikes against insurgents in Nuristan, the provincial governor told Afghan television TOLOnews.
Nuristan was the scene of heavy battles last week between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. The police and civilians were targeted on Wednesday after they were mistaken for militants, the governor, Jamaluddin Badr said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2011.
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