13 civilians killed in Khost airstrike: official
The early morning airstrike on Wednesday was carried out in Kamalkhel village of Syedkhel area at around 4am, the district police chief, Lf. Hameedullah, told Pajhwok Afghan News. He said all the dead were civilians and belonged to the same family. The dead included eight children, three women and two men, he said.
To condemn the killings, hundreds of people took to the streets and blocked the Khost-Gardez highway against traffic.
An elder from Zadran tribe, Anwar, said nearly 2000 people took part in the demonstration. He said all the victims were civilians. A mentally retarded person and a five-day-old baby were among the dead, he said, adding as many as 500 sheep were also killed in the airstrike.
Provincial police chief, Brig. Gen. Sardar Mohammad Zazai said a Haqqani terror network leader was among six militants killed in the attack. He said the rest killed in the airstrike were family members of the rebel leader.
The US led-coalition said its forces had inadvertently killed an unspecified number of women and children during a fight with insurgents in eastern Afghanistan this week, adding that it is also investigating a separate allegation of civilian casualties in the same region.
The two incidents, in Khost and Ghazni provinces, could pose a test for President Hamid Karzai, who has called for a halt to NATO airstrikes on Afghan homes and vowed to take “unilateral action” to stop them if they persist. Karzai’s office has not issued statements on either case so far.
According to a NATO statement, the patrol came under fire Wednesday morning from insurgents behind a tree line using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. The troops called in an airstrike that killed “several” insurgents and “a number of associated family members,” the statement said. “Unknown to the security force, the insurgents were operating among women and children.”
Zazai said that three women and six children were killed, along with four insurgents, including the commander, Qamar Ali.
A spokesman for the governor said an Afghan team has been dispatched to investigate the deaths, which occurred around dawn.
The NATO coalition is also investigating claims by residents that two shepherds were killed by a separate airstrike in Ghazni province.
According to its statement, troops with the International Security Assistance Force watched a man plant a roadside bomb, then called in an airstrike that killed him. “Although operational reporting indicates that only the insurgent targeted was killed, ISAF takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously,” the statement said.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.