NATO at fault over strike which killed 30 Afghans

18th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Thirty civilians were killed in the strike ordered by German troops in Kunduz province on September 4.

Kabul -- NATO should not have ordered an air strike in northern Afghanistan that killed 30 civilians as they gathered round fuel trucks hijacked by Taliban rebels, a government report said Thursday.

Thirty civilians and 69 Taliban fighters were killed in the strike ordered by German troops in Kunduz province on September 4, according to a report into the incident by a commission appointed by President Hamid Karzai.

The bombing in the increasingly restive province revived controversy about civilian casualties in Western military operations here, a frequent source of friction with the government and Afghan people.

"It was the wrong decision to carry out an aerial strike in the middle of the night on tankers full of fuel with a high degree of flammability which resulted in the killing and wounding of some civilians," the statement said.

The report by the four-man team was summarised in a statement from Karzai's office, which also said that nine civilians were wounded.

A German commander reportedly ordered the strike by US aircraft after Taliban militants hijacked two fuel trucks on a NATO supply route from Tajikistan, as he feared the vehicles could be used as mobile bombs.

The air strike destroyed both fuel tankers at a time when witnesses said villagers had rushed towards the vehicles, carrying containers to collect free fuel at the insurgents' invitation.

The report said, however, that Taliban militants bent on toppling Karzai's Western-backed government and ousting foreign troops were also to blame.

"Hijacking of the fuel tanks by Taliban which caused the killing and wounding of a large number of our compatriots was inhuman," the statement said.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul earlier Thursday, Karzai stressed that the attack did not target civilians.

"Germany has no intention at all of hurting anybody. On the contrary, Germany is here to protect the Afghan people," said Karzai.

"The incident was very unfortunate. We lost too many of our civilians there. The operation there was wrong -- it should have not been conducted, it could have been done through other means," he told reporters.

The NATO-led coalition has acknowledged that civilians were killed or injured in the strike but has yet to release details of its own parallel investigation. The United Nations has also promised a report.

There are about 100,000 NATO and US-led troops stationed in Afghanistan, helping the government fight a Taliban insurgency that is at its most deadly since the 2001 US-led invasion toppled the hardline regime.


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