The commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan apologised yesterday for 18 civilian deaths in a coalition airstrike this week, forming the alliance's first confirmation that civilians were killed in the operation.
Marine General 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.
"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," he told the 24 Afghans at a base at the provincial capital of Pul-i-Alam. 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.