Nato-led forces blamed for $100m damage to Afghan homes and orchards

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The Independent Online

Afghan and Nato forces have caused more than $100m damage to fruit crops and homes during security operations in southern Kandahar province, a government delegation claimed yesterday.

Tens of thousands of foreign and Afghan troops are deployed in Kandahar, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban, where they have been conducting military offensives over the past year.

The government delegation, led by President Hamid Karzai's adviser, Mohammad Sadiq Aziz, said Afghan and foreign forces caused unreasonable damage to homes and orchards, just as the harvest was about to begin, and displaced a number of people.

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was not immediately available for comment on the government report, but Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said the Taliban booby-trapped the orchards and empty houses of people who had fled ahead of security operations and that troops had no choice but to blow up those sites. He said the claims by the villagers about the cost of the damage were highly exaggerated.

In November, the Afghan Rights Monitor reported widespread damage to hundreds of houses in the same three districts, home to about 300,000 of the province's more than one million inhabitants.