Afghanistan: scores of civilians killed by US air strikes
Afghanistan: Urgent investigation into civilian deaths needed (Amnesty International, 7 – V – 2009)
Amnesty International demanded the United States immediately conduct independent, credible, and transparent investigations into air strikes in western Afghanistan that reportedly lead to the death of more than 100 civilians, including women and children.
The civilians reportedly died as a result of aerial bombardment in support of Afghan National Army units engaged in heavy combat with Taleban in the western province of Farah overnight on Monday into Tuesday. According to the governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, the Taleban were taking shelter in civilian homes during the fighting.
If the figures are verified, this attack was one of the deadliest for civilians since the US ousted the Taleban in 2001.
Amnesty International pointed out the Taleban and other insurgent groups are documented to have frequently launched attacks from civilian areas knowing that they will attract military response from the Afghan government and allied international military forces.
Robert Wood, a US State Department spokesperson has announced a joint investigation with the Afghan government into the incident. In several previous incidents of civilian deaths allegedly caused by the US military, the official investigation has been criticized as incomplete or inaccurate by the Afghan government as well as local and international human rights groups.
According to UN figures, last year alone saw 2,200 civilians killed, over half in insurgent attacks and nearly 40 percent by foreign and Afghan forces. There are currently around 70,000 foreign troops operating in Afghanistan, more than half of them from the United States.
Karzai urges US to stop strikes (BBC News, 8 – V – 2009)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on the US to halt air strikes in his country, following an attack that reportedly killed scores of civilians.
Mr Karzai, who is in Washington, told CNN air strikes were “not acceptable”.
Afghan officials say more than 100 civilians died when US jets attacked targets in the western Farah province.
The incident overshadowed a summit on Wednesday between the President Barack Obama, Mr Karzai, and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari.
“We demand an end to these operations… an end to air strikes,” Mr Karzai told CNN.
He said the deaths were “definitely” the result of US air strikes and not Taleban militants, as some US military officials had suggested.
“We believe strongly that air strikes are not an effective way of fighting terrorism, that air strikes rather cause civilian casualties and does not do good for the US, does not do good for Afghanistan,” he said.
US military and Afghan officials are investigating the attacks and trying to ascertain how many of those killed were insurgents.
The US says the Afghan estimate is “grossly exaggerated” but has not released its own figures.
At their summit in Washington, the US, Afghan and Pakistani presidents discussed their joint operation against al-Qaeda and the Taleban.
Pakistani forces are currently engaged in fierce fighting with Taleban insurgents in the north-west of the country.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she “deeply, deeply” regretted the deaths, adding that the US would work hard to avoid such “loss of innocent life”.
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