NATO forces inadvertently left five civilians dead, bringing the civilian death toll to twenty
By Alessia Faustini
A NATO airstrike in Kandahar Airfield on Monday has left five civilians dead and two injured, marking the second time in the span of two days that NATO forces have inadvertently killed Afghan civilians.
The deaths occurred when men digging on a dirt track in the Zhari district were discovered by a patrol of both NATO and Afghan troops, who suspected that the men were planting an improvised explosive device (IED). The patrol proceeded to call in an air strike.
U.S. Marine acting as chief of staff for NATO in Kabul, Maj.-Gen. Michael Regner said an investigation would be undertaken “to determine how this happened,” as was reported by The National Post.
In a statement released by NATO after the incident, after an aircraft open-fired on the suspected insurgents, members of the patrol “approached the site and determined the individuals had not been emplacing an IED.” The soldiers performed immediate first aid on the survivors who were then flown to a NATO hospital for treatment.
According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, nine more civilians and three insurgents were killed in the Helmand province on Sunday when a rocket missed its intended target by 300 metres and landed in a compound. Twelve civilians were killed by the rocket, bringing the civilian death toll to twenty.
The Globe and Mail reports that NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the accidents and, in a statement released by NATO, Gen. McChrystal said he regrets that innocent lives were lost.
The same statement stated that Zhari village elders met with NATO officials on Monday to discuss efforts to minimize other similar occurrences in the future, as well as how families of the victims would be compensated, which was to be done “according to local customs.”
Accidents resulting in the deaths of Afghan civilians have proven to be an unfaltering point of contention between Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and NATO. According to The National Post, Gen. McChrystal names the issue as one of his top priorities and asserts that the mantra he relates to troops is that no civilians should come to harm during military operations.