A NATO airstrike has killed 11 Afghan civilians, including ten children, officials said yesterday.
The US-led coalition confirmed that airstrikes were called in by international forces during the Afghan-led operation in a remote area of Kunar province near the border with Pakistan.
The coalition said it was aware of reports that civilians were killed, but had no immediate information about their deaths.
The death of Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire of battle has been a major point of contention between international forces and the Afghan government, prompting President Hamid Karzai to ban his troops from requesting airstrikes earlier this year.
Wasifullah Wasify, a government official in Kunar province, said the airstrike on Saturday targeted a house and killed ten children and one woman inside. He said seven Taleban suspects also were killed and five other women were wounded inside the house.
The airstrike occurred after a joint US-Afghan force faced hours of heavy gunfire from militants after launching an operation targeting a senior Taleban leader late on Friday in the Shultan area of Kunar’s Shigal district, according to tribal elder Gul Pasha, who also is the chief of the local council in Shultan.
“In the morning, after sunrise, planes appeared in the sky and airstrikes started and continued until evening,” he said.
He said the main suspect was in the house that was hit and the woman and children, aged between one and 12, who were killed were members of his family.
“I don’t think that they knew that all these children and women were in the house because they were under attack from the house and they were shooting at the house,” he said.
The US-led coalition said it provided fire support from the air, killing several insurgents.
“The air support was called in by coalition forces, not Afghan security forces, and was used to engage insurgent forces in areas away from structures, according to our reporting,” coalition spokesman Major Adam Wojack said.