Nato apologises for Afghanistan airstrike civilian deaths

 

The commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan apologized today for civilian deaths in a coalition airstrike earlier this week — the first confirmation by NATO forces that civilians were killed in the operation.

Marine Gen. John Allen flew to Logar province to personally deliver his regrets to villagers and provincial officials for the deaths of women, children and village elders in Wednesday's pre-dawn raid to capture a Taliban operative.

Afghan officials have said the airstrike called in by Nato troops killed 18 civilians.

"I know that no apology can bring back the lives of the children or the people who perished in this tragedy and this accident, but I want you to know that you have my apology and we will do the right thing by the families," Allen told the group of about two dozen Afghans gathered at a base at the provincial capital of Pul-i-Alam.

Nighttime raids on militants taking cover in villages have been a repeated source of strain between the Afghan government, which says the raids put civilians in the crossfire, and its international allies, who say such operations are key to rooting out insurgent leaders.

A deal signed in April was supposed to resolve the issue by putting the Afghan government in charge of such operations, and the troops involved in Wednesday's raid included Afghan soldiers. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has put the blame for this week's deaths squarely on the international coalition, condemning their actions and calling for them to give a fuller account of how small children were among the dead.

Nato and Afghan officials have said the troops were on an operation to capture a Taliban leader who had holed up in the house in Baraki Barak district's Sajawand village. As they tried to breach the compound, they came under fire and fought back, eventually calling in an airstrike.

Villagers have said there was a wedding at the house the evening before and that it was full of families visiting for the celebration. The morning after the bombing, they piled the bodies of the dead into vans and drove them to the provincial capital to protest the airstrike.

An Afghan doctor who examined the bodies and interviewed two women injured in the airstrike said a group of Taliban fighters decided to spend the night in the house because they thought the wedding would provide them cover. When Nato and Afghan troops started advancing on the house in the middle of the night, they called out for any civilians to come out, but the insurgents didn't allow them to leave, said Wali Wakil.

"The Taliban stopped them from getting out of the house," Wakil said. He said the 18 dead civilians including four women, two old men, three teenage boys and nine young children. Six Taliban fighters were also killed, Wakil said, citing the witnesses. Police had said previously that the district Taliban commander was killed.

Allen said that the troops did not know that there were civilians inside the house when they called in the airstrike.

"They were taken under fire. A hand grenade was thrown. Three of our people were wounded. We called for the people who were shooting to come out, and then the situation became more grave and innocent people were killed," he told The Associated Press after talking with the group gathered in Logar.

"Our weapons killed these people," Allen said. He declined to confirm the exact death toll or provide more details on the operation, citing the ongoing investigation.

In Logar, Allen met with the governor before taking his message to the assembled group of Baraki Barak residents and local officials. He invoked his own family, saying that he kept seeing the faces of his own children as he thought about the children who had been killed.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk