NATO apologises for killing of 9 Afghan children
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said he would personally apologise to President Hamid Karzai after Afghan leader returns from a trip to London this week.
"We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan, and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions," Petraeus said in a statement on Wednesday.
Some children were among the dead, the ISAF statement said.
Preliminary findings of an investigation showed that ISAF forces accidentally killed nine civilians in the Darah-Ye Pech district of Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province on Tuesday, the statement said. The incident happened after insurgents fired rockets at a base used by US and Afghan troops.
"These deaths should never have happened," Petraeus said.
"Regrettably, there appears to have been an error in the hand-off between identifying the location of the insurgents and the attack helicopters that carried out the subsequent operations."
Petraeus promised that the incident would be investigated and that if necessary, disciplinary action would be taken.
In a statement earlier on Wednesday, Karzai condemned the incident "in the strongest terms possible". He noted the incident occurred less than 10 days after another incident "that left many civilians dead in the same province".
He cautioned foreign troops against killing Afghan civilians in operations against insurgents, saying the casualties could create problems for the coalition.
"These killings of innocent people once again show that Afghan villages and streets are not safe havens for terrorists," the statement quoted Karzai as saying.
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.
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