Al Jazeera – 2013-04-07 23:39:07
NATO Airstrike Kills Afghan Children
(April 8, 2013) — At least 11 children have been killed in a NATO airstrike in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan. The children were killed during a joint Afghan-NATO operation against Taliban fighters in the Shigal district of restive Kunar province bordering Pakistan late on Saturday.
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, “strongly condemned the ISAF air strike in Kunar that killed 11 children,” in a statement issued by his office. “The president, while condemning the use of civilians as shields by the Taliban, denounced any kind of operations that cause civilian deaths,” the statement said. The president has also ordered a government investigation into the killings.
There were conflicting figures of the death toll, but Karzai’s office later said 11 people were killed – all of them children – and six women were wounded.
Wasifullah Wasifi, the spokesman for the Kunar governor, confirmed the attack to Al Jazeera. “We confirm a raid done by Afghanistan’s intelligence service in the district of Shigal. In this raid, the security forces killed 20 Taliban in which 10 of them are very senior Taliban members,” he told Al Jazeera.
The interior ministry said in a statement the attack by coalition forces killed six Taliban including two senior commanders.
A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the strike and said the coalition was gathering information to determine what happened. A US civilian died in a militant attack at the scene, ISAF said.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said that joint forces entered houses in Shigal village in the early hours of Sunday and carried out raids in addition to the air strikes. Al Jazeera has contacted NATO. We were told by a spokesperson that they were aware of the operation and that they have heard of some civilians who may have been injured in this strike,” our correspondent said.
Captain Luca Carniel, an ISAF spokesman, said ISAF had provided air support during the operation, but he said there had been no ISAF troops on the ground. The air strike had been requested by coalition forces, not their Afghan allies, he said.
Civilian deaths have been one of the most contentious issues in the 11-year campaign against Taliban fighters, provoking harsh criticism from the Afghan president and angry public protests.
After an air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, in February, Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO air strikes.
The latest strike came a day after at least five Americans, including a young female diplomat, were killed in two Taliban attacks in the country’s east and south.
A suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy in the southern province of Zabul on Saturday, killing three US soldiers and two civilians, one of whom was a female US diplomat.
Footnote: Security Challenge
A UN report in February said that the Taliban and other anti-government groups were responsible for 81 percent of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year.
Overall civilian deaths were down in 2012, but the UN says targeted killings of government employees were up 700 percent.
And attacks on women and chldren, particularly those working or going to school, was up 20 percent.
Americans Killed in Afghanistan Attacks
(April 7, 2013) — A car bomb blast in Afghanistan has killed five Americans, including three US soldiers and a young diplomat, while an American civilian died in a separate attack. An Afghan doctor was also killed in Saturday’s attack in Zabul province.
The US diplomat and other Americans were in a convoy of vehicles when the blast occurred, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. The soldiers and the diplomat died in the blast along with a civilian employee of the Defence Department and Afghan civilians, Kerry said. His statement gave no overall death toll. The convoy was near a hospital and a NATO base at the time of the explosion.
“Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province’s capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack,” Kerry said in his statement.
Provincial governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasery was in the convoy, but was unharmed. “One doctor and one civilian were killed and two of my body guards have been injured,” he told the AFP news agency.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Zabul attack in a text message from Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the group’s spokesman. He said a car bomb killed seven foreigners and wounded five others, though he later revised the toll to 13 foreigners killed and nine wounded.
The Taliban routinely exaggerates casualty figures.
In a separate attack in Afghanistan’s east, an American civilian working with the US government was killed during an armed attack, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. Saturday’s attacks came as Martin Dempsey, chairman of US joint chiefs of staff, arrived in the country for a short visit to assess how much training Afghan troops need before US troops pull out as planned by the end of 2014.
The UN says civilians are being increasingly targeted in 2013. A deadly Taliban assault in the country’s west on Wednesday killed 44 people in a courtroom in Farah province.
In a statement posted online on Saturday, Ahmadi said the Taliban would continue to target Afghan judges and prosecutors. “The Islamic Emirate, from today onwards, will keep a close watch over courthouses, all its personnel and all those who try to harm Mujahideen and will deal with them the same as the judges and prosecutors of Farah,” he said.
NATO Airstrike Kills Five Civilians in Afghanistan
(April 4, 2013) — A NATO air strike has killed four Afghan police and two civilians in the central-east Ghazni province, Afghan officials have said. A spokesman for the US-led NATO force in Kabul told the AFP news agency on Thursday that the military was checking the information.
The attack happened after Taliban insurgents attacked a local police post in eastern Ghazni province before dawn and NATO planes were called in to support the officers under attack.
“The NATO planes went there to assist the police, but the post was bombed and four police were killed. Two civilians present were also killed,” Fazul Ahmad Tolwak, chief of Ghazni’s Deh Yak district, told AFP. Ghazni provincial administration spokesman Fazul Sabawoon confirmed the incident and gave a similar account.
The strike came a day after Taliban gunmen killed at least 46 people at a court complex in the western city of Farah in a bid to free insurgents standing trial. All nine attackers were killed in the assault, which started with a huge car bomb at the entrance to the court and continued for eight hours as security forces hunted down one final surviving assailant.
The assault came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking to Al Jazeera in Qatar, said he remained open to talks with the Taliban, but that he wanted to secure the progress his government has made.
The Farah death toll was the highest in Afghanistan from a single attack since a Shia Muslim shrine was bombed in Kabul in December 2011, killing 80 people. Karzai condemned the court attack as a “massacre” and said Afghans would “not let such killings of Muslims by the Taliban go unpunished”.
After an air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, in February, Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO strikes. Also Thursday, NATO reported that an American F-16 fighter jet had crashed in eastern Afghanistan, killing the US pilot. The coalition did not release further details about Wednesday’s crash.
“While the cause of the crash is under investigation, initial reporting indicates there was no insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash,” the coalition said in a statement.
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