KHOST: Four students were killed in crossfire between foreign soldiers and insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, the education ministry said on Tuesday. The incident took place in the Gurbuz district of Khost province at about 6:00 pm on Monday, it said in a statement. A spokesperson for the ministry said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) forces opened fire on the vehicle.
“The students... were killed in an exchange of fire between Isaf and the opposition,” it said, referring to Nato’s International Security Assistance Force and militants. A spokesperson for the ministry, Mohammad Asif Nang, told AFP: “Essentially the foreign forces opened fire on them.” The ministry did not say how old the students were. The statement coincided with a release from Isaf that said four people had died in Khost after their vehicle was fired on by international soldiers while it was accelerating towards their convoy.
It was unclear if the two reports referred to the same incident. All four of the dead were cousins, said their uncle Amir Salihan, adding that two of them were brothers. He said they were aged 12, 18, 18 and 19 years old. “All four were going to play volleyball when this incident happened,” he told AFP, adding: “They were not carrying weapons.” In a statement, Isaf said that its convoy was returning to base when it was approached by a vehicle that turned off its lights and accelerated towards them.
“Isaf personnel then fired warning shots but the vehicle continued to accelerate. Several rounds were fired in an attempt to disable the vehicle and finally shots were fired into the vehicle itself,” it said in a statement. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict are an incendiary issue and though most are caused by Taliban-linked insurgents, they are generally blamed on the presence of foreign troops. The United Nations said in a report earlier this year that most civilian fatalities – 2,412 in 2009 and 2,118 in 2008 – were caused by Taliban attacks. Civilian deaths caused by western troops fell 28 percent last year compared with the year before, it added. AFP