Karzai cautions foreign troops on civilian deaths
ASADABAD (PAN): President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday cautioned foreign troops against killing Afghan civilians in operations against insurgents, saying the casualties could create problems for the coalition.
The warning comes a day after nine children were killed in a coalition airstrike in eastern Kunar province and less than two weeks after 65 people, most of them women and children, were killed in a similar air raid in the province on Feb. 18.
Kunar’s police chief on Wednesday confirmed the casualties in Tuesday’s strike were children between the ages of 8 and 14. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it would investigate the claims.
As many as 2,000 residents of Manogi district on Wednesday protested against the killing of children who they said were collecting firewood. They blocked the Nangarhar highway for four hours and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
"These killings of innocent people once again show that Afghan villages and streets are not safe havens for terrorists," Karzai was quoted as saying in a statement.
"Children in Manogi were killed while collecting firewood to warm their houses during the chilly winter.”
He urged ISAF to target the "real sanctuaries of militants" as killing civilians would only land them in trouble.
The president ordered security agencies to thoroughly investigate the Manogi incident and report back to him.
The children killed in the airstrike were students, and two were orphans, Kunar education director, Jamaluddin Hussaini, said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Manogi residents took to the streets to protest the killings.
One of the organisers, Yar Pacha, said the rally was attended by about 2,000 people. "NATO forces in their blind bombardment killed school children. We have never seen such kind of barbarism before," he said.
"We don’t need any assistance from Americans, they should leave us. It is better to die of starvation than to accept their help," he said.
Residents warned of continuing protests until those responsible for the killings were punished.
The Manogi district chief said the bombardment began at 9am and continued until 11:30am.
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