April 15, 2013 in Nation/World

Deaths blamed on U.S., Taliban

Afghan government issues report on April 6 airstrike
Mark Magnier Los Angeles Times

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban and U.S. military were both at fault in a NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan this month that killed 17 Afghan civilians, including 12 children, according to an Afghan government investigation.

The inquiry raised the number of civilian deaths from an earlier total of 11.

NATO has completed an investigation of the same incident in Kunar province, but its report is still under review, a coalition spokesman said.

According to the Afghan investigation of the April 6 incident released Saturday, security forces were on a mission to arrest two Taliban commanders, Qari Mohammad Hanif and Ali Khan, when they were ambushed by gunmen with light and heavy weapons, resulting in the death of an American adviser.

U.S. forces then called in NATO planes, investigators said, both to remove the body and to strike homes believed to house attackers.

In addition to the 17 civilian deaths, 12 people were injured.

Reports at the time said the Taliban fighters were also killed.

“As the reports confirm that armed Taliban were there in the area, we strongly condemn the use of civilians and their homes as shields by the Taliban,” President Hamid Karzai said in a statement. But, he added, “we do not accept the conduct of any airstrike on residential areas under any name and for any purpose whatsoever.”

Karzai added that the airstrike in a crowded residential area by the International Security Assistance Force violated human rights and breached an Afghan executive order banning the use of such weapons in populated neighborhoods.

The investigation was done by a team from Kabul in consultation with 75 tribal and religious leaders from the province.

The U.S.-led coalition said it launched airstrikes in Kunar province that day but has not confirmed civilian casualties. It also said the strikes did not take place in an area with buildings.

According to a statement from the Afghan president’s office, Karzai told U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday that more such incidents could jeopardize a bilateral security pact aimed at allowing a limited U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

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