Afghan civilians killed in NATO airstrike

May 5th, 2009 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Kabul, May 5 (DPA) Around 30 people, including “a big number” of civilians and several Taliban militants, were killed in a clash with international forces in western Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Tuesday.
The violence erupted Monday afternoon when Taliban militants attacked police posts in Shiwan and Gunj Abad, two villages in Bala Bulok district of the western province of Farah, provincial Governor Ruh-ul-Amin said.

“The militants killed three innocent villagers for working and spying for the government and the foreign forces,” Amin said, adding that three policemen also were killed.

The ground forces then asked NATO air-support to target the militants “who were hiding in residential areas and were firing at our forces from inside the civilian houses”, he said.

“Around 30 Taliban and civilians were killed by ground forces and airstrikes,” he said, adding that the total number of casualties remained unclear as some civilian homes were bombed and authorities had no precise information on how many civilians were killed in the raid.

Another senior official in the region, who did not want to be named, also confirmed civilians sustained casualties, but said that they were unable to provide any exact numbers because government control in those villages was limited.

He said the militants had escaped towards the district’s Band-e-Bakhshabad area and Afghan and international forces were in pursuit.

A NATO spokesman in Kabul said their forces were involved in an operation in the western region, but did not elaborate.

Civilian casualties during the anti-Taliban operation have become a delicate issue in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai has pleaded several times with the NATO forces to avoid civilian deaths during their operations and has admitted that his repeated demands have strained his relations with some Western countries that have soldiers in the country.

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