Mistaken airstrike kills 33 in Afghanistan

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) airstrike in southern Afghanistan has killed 33 people after an aircraft fired on civilians mistakenly thought to be insurgents, the Afghan government said yesterday.

The Afghan cabinet condemned the killings near the border of Uruzgan and Dai Kondi provinces as "unjustifiable". Such casualties are a major source of anger among Afghans and Sunday's toll was the highest number of civilian deaths in months.

The incident was not part of Operation Mushtarak, the major Nato-led offensive to clear Taliban militants out of neighbouring Helmand province in the south. Nonetheless, it could still hurt Afghan government and Nato efforts to win support from the local population under a plan to wrest control of Taliban strongholds before US troop withdrawal in 2011.

"Initial reports indicate that Nato fired on Sunday on a convoy of three vehicles, killing at least 33 civilians, including four women and one child, and injuring 12 others," the Afghan cabinet said in a statement.

Civilian casualties have caused friction between the Afghan government and foreign forces, who have launched two big offensives in the past eight months. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said civilians had been killed as they approached a joint Nato-Afghan unit, but did not say how many. An investigation as begun, it said.

 

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