Conflict & Justice

NATO accused of killing up to 10 civilians in Afghanistan's Kunar province

A NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan has been blamed for the deaths of up to 10 civilians, most of them children.

Afghan officials said the strike took place overnight in a remote region of Kunar province, near the border with Pakistan, targeting a house where Taliban insurgents were known to be meeting.

Four "senior Taliban leaders" were killed, a local lawmaker told the Associated Press – but the strike also hit the house next door.

"Five children, four women and a man were killed in the raid," provincial governor Sayed Fazulullah Wahidi told Agence France-Presse, though the AP and others put the death toll at nine.

Another five civilians were injured, Wahidi told Reuters.

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NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has not confirmed the figures. It said only that it was aware of the reports and was "looking into the circumstances surrounding this incident":

"Foreign forces carried out the attack by themselves without informing us," Governor Wahidi complained.

Civilian casualties in airstrikes have become one of the biggest bones of contention between the Afghan government and the US-led coalition force.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child last week expressed alarm at the rising number of child casualties being reported in Afghanistan, which it said was "due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force."

President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that the US would withdraw 34,000 of its troops from Afghanistan – nearly half the number currently deployed there – over the coming year, a move that was welcomed by Kabul.

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