Military says probe into NATO airstrike will take ’several weeks’

September 8th, 2009 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Kabul, Sep 8 (DPA) The NATO military command said Tuesday its probe into a deadly airstrike in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz would take “several weeks” and an initial assessment showed “civilians had been killed or injured in the strike”.
Friday’s airstrike conducted by US planes was ordered by a German military commander when a large crowd of people was observed through satellite images gathering around two trucks stuck in a riverbed in Chardarah district in Kunduz province.

The district governor of Chardarah said that more than 130 people were killed in the incident, while Taliban rebels announced their own independent probe, giving the names of 79 civilians and claiming that more than 100 were killed.

The German defence ministry has estimated that the air-support operation summoned by a German officer left 56 Taliban rebels dead and 12 persons wounded and there were no civilians killed.

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, who visited the site one day after the incident, has appointed a high-level investigative team to probe the strike, the alliance said in a statement Tuesday.

Canadian General C.S. Sullivan, deputy director of Joint Operations, was appointed by McChrystal to lead the joint investigation, while a US Air Force officer, a German officer, and a legal advisor would support him, it said.

“An initial assessment conducted at the scene of the incident by McChrystal and several of his senior leadership team concluded that civilians had been killed or injured in the strike,” it said, adding that the probe would take “several weeks to complete its work”.

“The board’s result will be shared with Afghanistan and German authorities to inform their follow-on actions as appropriate,” it said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also called for a speedy investigation to determine whether any civilians were killed, while Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung has said that the casualties “might” include civilians.

A commission appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a UN team are also conducting separate investigations in the province.

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