US-led coalition airstrike kills 76 civilians in Afghanistan

August 23rd, 2008 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Aug 23 (DPA) At least 76 civilians, mostly children and some women, have been killed in a US-led coalition force’s airstrike in western Afghan province of Herat, the Afghan interior ministry said.”Today in the afternoon during a bombardment of coalition forces 76 people, including 19 women, seven men and the rest children under 15 years of age were killed,” the interior ministry said in a statement Friday without mentioning the place where the gruesome airstrike took place.

The ministry has sent a 10-member delegation to the area to investigate the case, it said, adding that a number of civilians were also wounded, some critically in the strafing in Shindand district.

US-led coalition forces earlier had said they had killed Friday 30 Taliban militants in an operation, backed by close air support in the same district.

The killed in Herat bombing included one of the Taliban commanders, Mullah Sadiq, a US military statement said.

The militants, according to the statement, attacked the combined forces from inside houses as they were on their way to detain a Taliban commander.

Joint forces responded to their attack with small arms fire and called in air support.

General Zahir Azimi, Afghan defence ministry spokesman, confirmed the clash, but said five of the 30 killed in the operation were civilians.

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 the hearts and minds of the people.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier this month called on the international forces to shift their attention from fighting the terrorism in 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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