NATO airstrike on Afghan village kill 17 civilians

October 17th, 2008 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanKabul, Oct 17 (Xinhua) At least 17 civilians have been killed in an airstrike by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) against Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, officials said Friday. The Afghan National Army (ANA), supported by ISAF gunships, launched a massive offensive against Taliban militants in Nad Ali district Thursday morning, killing a number of militants, provincial police chief Assadullah Shirzad told reporters.

“However, some civilian deaths were also reported later in the day,” Shirzad said.

He said residents of the bombarded village carried bodies in two vehicles to the provincial government office compound in the capital city of Lashkar Gha.

Daud Ahmadi, spokesperson of the provincial administration, confirmed that 17 civilians were killed but parried questions if the deaths were due to the airstrikes.

Hazrat Shah, one of the villagers, told reporters that 25 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in the airstrike.

ISAF confirmed in a statement there was an airstrike Thursday morning in Nad Ali district but stopped short of giving further details.

“ISAF is aware of an incident involving an airstrike that took place earlier Thursday in Nad Ali district of Helmand province,” the statement said.

“This incident is being investigated and at this time we are unable to confirm any civilian casualties,” it said.

Rising civilian casualties in the armed campaign by ISAF and US-led coalition forces against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan have been a major source of tension between the government of President Hamid Karzai and foreign troops in the country fighting militancy.

The government while repeatedly protesting civilian killings has expressed fear that such incidents would antagonise the people against it.

More than 90 civilians were killed during a raid by US troops on militants in western Afghan province of Herat Aug 22. The incident has drawn nationwide condemnation and demand for trial of those responsible for the killings.

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