Karzai condemns killing of 76 Afghan civilians by US airstrike (Lead)

August 23rd, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Aug 23 (DPA) Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday condemned the killing of 76 civilians, mostly children, by a US airstrike in western Afghanistan, and vowed his government would take necessary measures to curtail such deaths in the future.The US military acknowledged in a statement that it was aware of the government’s allegations of civilian deaths in the operation against Taliban fighters Friday in the district Shindand of Herat province.

“All allegations of civilian casualties are taken very seriously,” the statement said. “An investigation has been directed.”

Karzai blamed the US coalition forces for carrying out the attack in the district’s Aziz Abad area without coordination with the Afghan army.

“All efforts of the Afghan government to avoid civilian casualties have not yielded any positive results and our innocent countrymen are still killed in anti-terrorism operations,” Karzai said in a statement.

The president also said his government would take “necessary measures” to curtail such deadly incidents and would soon announce the details of the plan.

The interior ministry said Friday that the operation in Shindand killed 19 women, 7 men and 50 children, all under 15 years of age.

The US military claimed that 30 militants, including a rebel commander were killed in the operation, after the joint Afghan and coalition forces were ambushed by militants hiding inside the compounds.

If confirmed, the civilian toll in Friday’s air raid would be the highest since the deployment of foreign forces in the country following the ouster of Taliban regime in late 2001.

In April 2007, more than 50 civilians were killed in the same district when coalition forces bombed suspected Taliban militants a United Nations investigation said.

Civilian casualties during the international operations against the Taliban are a matter concern for the Western-backed Afghan government as it struggles to win legitimacy among the population.

More than 3,000 people - mostly insurgents but including more than 1,000 civilians - have been killed so far this year, according to figures provided by Afghan and international military sources.

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