According to Afghan officials a NATO air strike has killed eight Afghan women and girls gathering firewood. At first International Security Assistance Force officials claimed that 45 insurgents were targeted but later admitted possible civilian casualties
As is often the case, NATO at first claimed that the targets were insurgents and that initial reports showed that only insurgents were killed in the strike. However this report was contradicted by information coming from Afghan officials who said that victims included eight women and girls who were out gathering firewood before dawn.
Once the Afghan officials contradicted the NATO report Jamie Graybeal a NATO spokesperson said that NATO took any charges of civilian deaths seriously. No doubt the charges were taken even more seriously after villagers from the Alingar district in Lagham province brought bodies of those killed to the governor's office in the provincial capital.
Sarhadi Zewak, a spokesperson for the provincial government, said:“They were shouting ‘Death to America!’ They were condemning the attack." A provincial health director said that there were also seven females injured who were brought to area hospitals for treatment. Some of the injured were as young as ten years old.
BBC now reports that NATO has acknowledged the civilian deaths.Nato has conceded that between five and eight civilians died as it targeted insurgents, and offered condolences.
Afghan president Karzai has constantly complained about air strikes and the civilian casualties they have caused. However, he has so far been unable to stop them and no doubt they will continue even after security is turned over to Afghanistan in 2014. U.S. officials say that these missile attacks are very precise and that civilian casualties are rare. However, what are called signature attacks are now used. In these attacks people are targeted simply on the basis of suspicious behavior. Apparently people moving in the countryside before dawn arouse enough suspicion to be classified as suspected terrorists. There were probably never any insurgents targeted. The women collecting firewood were just classified as suspected insurgents.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan four more soldiers were killed in an apparent insider attack. The four killed were American troops. The killings happened at an observation post operated jointly with 6 coalition troops together with 6 Afghan National Police.. One of the Afghan members was found dead at the scene while the other five had disappeared. Over 50 NATO troops have now been killed so far this year in "insider" attacks.
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