Taliban, not civilians, killed in NATO Afghan strike, says Berlin
Berlin said the German commanding officer in Kunduz ordered the air strike and recalled that NATO rules state that no such attack should take place if civilians are thought to be present.Berlin -- The German army said on Friday it was confident that those killed in a NATO airstrike on hijacked fuel tankers in the northern Kunduz region of Afghanistan were Taliban militants, not civilians.
"As far as we know at the moment, more than 50 insurgents were killed. We believe there were no non-combatant casualties. There were no German casualties," an army statement said, revising an earlier toll of 56.
A spokesman for the defence ministry, Christian Dienst, dismissed what he described as "speculation" and "enemy propaganda" reports that civilians were also killed in the air strike, which took place at 2:30 am local time.
Speaking at a regular briefing, Dienst said the German commanding officer in Kunduz ordered the air strike and recalled that NATO rules state that no such attack should take place if civilians are thought to be present.
"I am firmly convinced that he stuck to the rules of engagement," he said.
Earlier, a German army spokesman had told AFP: "We are fairly certain that they were all insurgents, but we are not 100 percent sure."
Afghan officials have put the death toll much higher.
A spokesman for the Kunduz provincial government, Mahbubullah Sayedi, told AFP: "Some 90 people were killed in this incident and most of them are Taliban."
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen pledged later Friday to conduct a thorough investigation into the bombing.
A health ministry spokesman in Kabul, Farid Rahid, said that between 200 to 250 villagers were believed to have gathered to help themselves to fuel from tankers hijacked by the fighters.
At present, Germany has 4,200 troops in Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, of which 900 are stationed in Kunduz.
Thirty-five German soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the army deployed troops there in 2002, 18 of them in combat or bombings.
In a separate and unrelated incident on Thursday, four German troops were wounded after they came under fire from rebels carrying rifles and bazookas some 60 kilometres northeast of Kunduz.
One of the injured soldiers has been flown back to Germany for treatment, the spokesman said, adding that several German armoured cars were damaged in the battle.
There has been a "clear escalation" in the number of incidents when compared to last year, the spokesman said.