Afghan president condemns civilian deaths

An Afghan human rights group said today that at least 88 people, including 20 women, were killed in a joint Afghan-US coalition military operation in western Afghanistan.

An Afghan human rights group said today that at least 88 people, including 20 women, were killed in a joint Afghan-US coalition military operation in western Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the violence and said most of the dead were civilians.

Karzai, lamenting that his efforts to get the US and Nato to prevent civilian casualties had not been successful, said in a statement that the Afghan government would soon announce "necessary measures" to prevent civilian deaths. He provided no details.

Meanwhile, an Afghan school principal and a police official said Afghan army troops tried to hand out food and clothes today to Afghans in Azizabad - the village in the Shindand district of Herat province where the operation took place Thursday - but villagers started throwing stones at the soldiers, who then fired on the Afghans and wounded up to eight.

US coalition spokeswoman Rumi Nielson-Green said Thursday's operation was led by Afghan National Army commandos, with support from the coalition. Originally the coalition said the battle killed 30 militants, but Nielson-Green said five civilians - two women and three children connected to the militants - were among the dead.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said one of the group's researchers visited Azizabad on Friday and found that 88 people had been killed and 25 houses had been damaged, including 15 that were destroyed.

Nadery said the information was preliminary and the group would publish a final report. He did not provide a breakdown of how many of the 88 were civilians or militants.

He said 20 women were among the dead, and the rest were men and children.

The Interior Ministry has said that 76 civilians were killed, including 50 children under the age of 15. Karzai's office said at least 70 civilians died.

The Afghan Ministry of Defence said 25 militants and five civilians were killed.

The US coalition said it would investigate the claims of civilian deaths.

"Obviously there's allegations and a disconnect here. The sooner we can get that cleared up and get it official, the better off we'll all be," said US coalition spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry. "We had people on the ground."

Ghulam Azrat, director of the middle school in Azizabad, said he collected 60 bodies Friday morning after the bombing.

"We put the bodies in the main mosque," he said. "Most of these dead bodies were children and women. It took all morning to collect them."

The differing death tolls for Thursday's airstrikes were impossible to verify because of the remote and dangerous location of the battle site.

Complicating the matter, Afghan officials are known to exaggerate civilian death claims for political payback, to qualify for more compensation money from the US or because of pressure from the Taliban.

The operation was launched after an intelligence report that a Taliban commander, Mullah Siddiq, was inside a compound presiding over a meeting of militants, Azimi said. Siddiq was one of those killed during the raid, Azimi said.

More than 3,400 people - mostly militants - have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to figures from Western and Afghan officials.

Later a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan exploded killing 10 civilians, according to an Afghan police chief.

Matiullah Khan said the civilians were riding in a small bus when the bomb exploded in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province.

Roadside bombs are typically aimed at Afghan and Nato troops but often are triggered early and kill civilians.

In neighbouring Helmand province, meanwhile, provincial police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal says a battle between Taliban fighters and Afghan police on Friday killed 17 militants.

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox