US air strike killed 47 wedding guests

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The Independent Online

A US air strike in eastern Afghanistan last Sunday killed 47 members of a wedding party, including the bride, according to an investigation set up by President Hamid Karzai.

The claim by the investigators, who said 39 of the dead were women and children, fuelled fresh anger over the rising civilian toll in Nato's war against the Taliban. Nato says the victims were militants.

The risks of heavy Western firepower in close combat have also been shown in the past week by the wounding of nine members of the Parachute Regiment by a British helicopter, and an incident over which Pakistan has protested. It says eight Pakistani troops and two civilians were wounded when Western or Afghan troops fired mortars across the border. Nato insists it hit targets inside Afghanistan.

Reports last weekend said 20 people had been killed in an air strike in Nangarhar province and that the dead were insurgents. But the Afghan investigators said that, apart from the women and children killed, the other victims were aged between 14 and 18.

Nato points out the Taliban is responsible for twice as many civilian deaths as it is, but says it is investigating the incident. There are several cases where the US-led force's version of events has been at variance with local accounts.