Afghan probe team confirms US air strikes killed 90 civilians

August 31st, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Aug 31 (Xinhua) An Afghan investigation team probing the death of civilians in US-led coalition airstrikes Aug 22 said Sunday 90 people were killed in the raids in western Afghan province of Herat.The Minister for Haji and Religious Affairs and head of the investigation team Nimatullah Shahrani, submitting the report to President Hamid Karzai, said the air strikes purportedly on Taliban targets left 90 civilians dead and injured six, a presidential palace release said.

Based on the information of the locals, the investigation team emphasised that there were no militants in the areas where the strikes were carried out.

“As a result of the bombardments in Azizabad and Nawabad villages of Shindand district Aug 22, a total of 90 civilians — 15 men, 15 women and 60 children ranging from one year to 18 years of age — were killed,” the report said.

Eight houses were destroyed and seven were partly damaged in the air strikes which lasted for six hours, the report noted.

“The locals had shown the body parts of the victims including hands, legs and heads of those killed in the tragic incident to the investigating team,” said Shahrani.

The US-led Coalition forces also took with themselves five more civilians after the bloody operation, the statement said.

Both the Coalition forces and Afghan defence ministry at the beginning disputed the claim, saying 25 insurgents and five civilians were killed in the raid.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) after investigating the case last week confirmed the death of 90 civilians in the bombardments and called on warring sides to respect the rights of the non-combatants.

Civilian casualties during the international operations against the Taliban have become a matter of severe concern for the Western-backed Afghan government as it tries to win confidence of the people.

President Karzai earlier this month called on the international forces to shift their attention from Afghan villages, where he said it caused nothing but civilian casualties, to bases of terrorism.

Afghan officials said the Taliban have safe havens in tribal areas of Pakistan from where they cross the border and attack Afghan and coalition forces, a claim Islamabad has repeatedly denied.

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