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    Kapisa civilian deaths being probed: ISAF

    KABUL (PAN): A NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman on Monday said an investigation was underway into the death of eight children after an airstrike in central Kapisa province.

    ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson told a press conference in Kabul that at this stage of the assessment they could not confirm or deny the deaths caused by the airstrike in Nijrab district on Wednesday.

    Of the bombing came following an airstrike in eastern Kunar province, killing seven civilians, Jacobson said the deaths in Kapisa might have been linked to insurgent operations in the area.

    But an Afghan team sent by President Karzai to the area to investigate the incident showed reporters the victims’ photographs and said the minors were bombed twice while herding sheep in heavy snow and lighting a fire to warm themselves.

    Seven of the dead boys were aged between six and 14 and one around 18, said Mohammad Tahir Safi, a lawmaker and member of the investigation team.

    “Where were the rights of these children? Did they have any rights at all? Did they have the right to live like the rest of the people around the world?" Safi asked.

    Another team, appointed by President Hamid Karzai, said seven members of a family were killed in the Sawakai district of Kunar province during an airstrike by foreign troops.

    Jacobson said NATO aircraft and ground forces attacked insurgents in Najrab district, where an operation was conducted according to NATO rules on air strikes.

    He added a joint conference of the alliance and Afghan officials on preventing civilian fatalities would be held on March 3. "All suggestions regarding the prevention of civilian casualties will be discussed."

    Earlier in the month, the United Nations said the collateral damage the Afghan conflict had risen for the fifth year in a row -- from 2,790 civilian deaths in 2010 to 3,021 in 2011.

    Most deaths were caused by insurgents, the UN said, but civilian fatalities due to NATO airstrikes also rose nine percent to 187. Air raids were the main reason behind civilian deaths caused by NATO.

    The Taliban denounced the UN report as one-sided, saying the world body had always tried to provide a legal cover to the “unlawful” activities of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

    In a statement, the rebels said the UN preferred a political stance over a humanitarian one. "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan reminds the UN not to damage its reputation for the sake of US interests and say the whole truth."

    frm/ma/mud