ISAF apologises for Afghan civilian deaths
KABUL (PAN): NATO-led forces apologised for civilian deaths in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a day after President Hamid Karzai issued a final warning to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on the emotive issue.
Fourteen people, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike in Helmand province on Saturday and dozens of civilians and policemen in a similar raid in the remote eastern province of Nuristan.
"Such raids trample all human and moral values, but NATO-led forces seem not to heed our warnings," the president said on Sunday, when he issued a final warning to foreign soldiers and directed the authorities to compensate the victims' families.
Major General John Toolan, the ISAF commander for southwestern Afghanistan, said: "I want to offer my sincere apologies for the nine civilians who were killed during the incident in Nawzad district on 28 May."
In a statement, Toolan said that the strike was conducted against the militants who had earlier killed a US marine during a patrol in the district. Avoiding civilian casualties was the coalition's "top priority", he insisted.
"Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians," he said on behalf of ISAF commander, Gen. David Petraeus.
With a full investigation still ongoing, the commander said: "While I know there is no price on human life, we will ensure that we make amends with the families in accordance with Afghan culture."
According to the ISAF statement, a fact-finding team was being dispatched to Doab district of Nuristan, where Governor Jamaluddin Badr claimed police and civilians were killed during an airstrike on Wednesday.
But the alliance said initial reporting showed no sign of civilian casualties in Doab. Backed by their international partners, Afghan police and army conducted an operation to flush out guerrillas from the town. Foreign forces mistook the policemen and residents for fighters, Badr said.
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