Afghan villagers sit near the bodies of children who they said were killed during an air strike in Kunar province April 7, 2013.
A NATO airstrike has killed 11 children and one woman in the East of Afghanistan, report local officials. A house collapsed during the attack, causing the casualties and leaving six women injured.
The civilians were killed during a joint Afghan-NATO operation late on Saturday night in the Shigal district of Kunar province, which borders Pakistan.
“Eleven children and a woman were killed when an air strike hit their houses,” provincial spokesman Wasifullah Wasifi said on Sunday.
A Reuters journalist saw the bodies of 11 children being carried by their families and other villagers. They were on their way to the office of Mohammad Zahir Safai, the Shigal district chief, to register their protest.
The body of the female victim was not seen, as women’s bodies are not displayed in accordance of custom. However, local residents told the journalist of her death.
Six militants – two of them senior Taliban leaders – and an American civilian adviser to the Afghan intelligence agency were also killed in the operation.
A spokesman for the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan said they were aware of reports regarding civilian casualties and were assessing the incident, Reuters reports.
The spokesman, Captain Luca Carniel, said the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had provided “air support” during the operation, but that no ISAF troops were on the ground.
The airstrike had been called in by NATO forces, and not their Afghan allies, he continued.
Earlier on Saturday, five Americans, including three US soldiers, a young diplomat and a US Defense Department contractor were also killed when a car bomb targeted their convoy in the southern province of Zabul.
Provincial governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasery was in the convoy, but was not injured in the attack, local and NATO officials said.
“Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province’s capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
The foreign service officer, identified 25-year-old Anne Smedinghoff, was described by Kerry as“vivacious, smart” and “capable.”
Four other US diplomats were wounded, one critically, Kerry continued.
Recently, Afghan security forces have been taking the lead in operations against Taliban insurgency in preparation for the final withdrawal of alliance forces in 2014.
US Special Forces were forced to withdraw from two Afghan provinces back in February by the government after a number of reports of “harassing, torturing and murdering innocent civilians.”
U.S. troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) keep watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, February 27, 2013.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai slammed the US forces for fueling “insecurity and instability” in troubled provinces located close to Kabul.
But despite President Karzai’s often contentious relationship with ISAF forces over “collateral damage”, NATO will continue to launch airstrikes when it is tactically beneficial, political analyst Habib Hakimi told RT.
“President Karzai actually banned Afghan security forces (almost two months ago) from calling NATO forces for air support during operations against Taliban forces and other militant groups. But it seems NATO doesn’t care about President Karzai’s concerns…about civilian casualties, particularly in giant operations with Afghan security forces against the Taliban and other militant groups.”
Errant NATO airstrikes have put Afghan President Karzai in a particularly precarious position, as he both owes his power to US-led forces but also is delegitimized as a result of their actions, RT’s Gayane Chichakyan reports.
“These airstrikes come amid repeated pleas come amid repeated pleas of the Afghan government of President Karzai to stop killing civilians. In Karzai’s words, they fuel insecurity and instability, they further alienate Afghans from their government, which many Afghans see as a puppet government,” she said.
“President Karzai, though he does owe his power to allied forces, to Washington specifically, he clearly understands that those civilian casualties steer more violence in Afghanistan and undermine his government even further,” Chichkyan continued.
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