Conflict & Justice

NATO apologizes for civilian deaths in Helmand (VIDEO)

NATO apologized Monday for a weekend air strike that killed up to 14 women and children in southern Afghanistan.

Senior NATO generals including Gen. David Petraeus issued a statement Monday saying their top priority was to prevent the killing of civilians and they take the incident seriously, BBC reports.

The strike occured Saturday in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand.

Local officials told the New York Times that the air strike intended to hit Taliban fighters but missed and struck two family homes.

The NATO joint statement, which said a full investigation into the incident has been launched, said the air strike came after a U.S. marine was killed. It said the strike was intended to target five insurgents who took cover in a compound in Nawzad district and continued to fight.

The generals said nine civilians were killed by the air strike, whereas Afghan officials said 12 children and two women died.

“Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians,” Maj. Gen. John Toolan, commander of NATO forces in the Southwest region, said in the statement, the Times reports.

“While I know there is no price on human life, we will ensure that we make amends with the families in accordance with Afghan culture."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the strikes and said this was the "last warning" to NATO forces.

"We have told the Americans and NATO forces several times that unco-ordinated operations will result in the killing of innocent civilians and that such operations are inhumane, but still no one has listened," Karzai said, as reported by AFP. He added that this would be "the last warning to NATO forces, American forces, and American officials."