Probe into reports that airstrike killed civilians

A joint British and Afghan investigation was under way today amid fears an air strike aimed at suspected insurgents may in fact have killed nine innocent civilians.

A joint British and Afghan investigation was under way today amid fears an air strike aimed at suspected insurgents may in fact have killed nine innocent civilians.

The rocket strike at 7.30pm on November 4 in the Babaji area of Helmand was aimed at what was believed to be nine insurgents laying a mine.

“The decision to fire was made in the honest belief that it was targeted against a team of insurgents digging in two mines,” the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

“However new evidence has been brought to our attention by Governor (Gulab) Mangal which has caused us to question our belief that the strike was against insurgents and instead that innocent civilians may have been the victims.”

The Commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier James Cowan, has instructed the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police to carry out a joint investigation into the incident with the Afghan National Police.

“ISAF deplores the deaths of any civilians and will ensure that the investigation is full and thorough,” the ISAF statement said.

“Without prejudice to the outcome of that investigation ISAF wishes to make assistance payments to the families of the deceased.

“Further comment on this matter would not be appropriate at this time pending the outcome of the full investigation.”

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