Eleven children and a woman were killed by an air strike during a Nato operation targeting Taliban commanders in eastern Afghanistan, officials in the region said today.
Civilian deaths have been a long-running source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his international backers. President Karzai has forbidden Afghan troops from calling for air strikes and Nato advises its crews not to fire at or bomb in populated areas. Six insurgents – two of them senior Taliban leaders – were killed during the operation on Saturday in the Shigal district of Kunar province close to the Pakistani border.
A spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), Captain Luca Carniel, said it had provided “air support” during the operation. The air strike had been requested by coalition forces, not their Afghan allies. An American civilian adviser to the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, was also killed in the operation which lasted several hours.
The deaths came on the same day that a car bomb killed five Americans, including three US soldiers, a young diplomat and a US Defence Department contractor in the southern province of Zabul. US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday paid tribute to the diplomat who died, 25-year-old press officer Anne Smedinghoff, who is the first US diplomat killed in Afghanistan since the 1970s. Mr Kerry, who met Ms Smedinghoff on a visit to Kabul last month, said she was “vivacious, smart, [and] capable”, and had great potential. She had less than four months to serve in Afghanistan and had been on her way to a high school to deliver books when the bomb went off.