3 Min Read
By Ismail Sameem
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday it was checking reports its warplanes had killed a number of civilians during a strike against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai again called for an end to the killing of civilians and referred to the incident in the Shah Wali Kot district, a hotbed of Taliban insurgents in the southern province of Kandahar.
"By bombing Afghanistan, the war against terrorism cannot be won," Karzai told a news conference. "As we speak today, we had again civilian casualties. Yesterday, in Shah Wali Kot of Kandahar we had civilian casualties," he said.
Karzai did not give any more details but several villagers who had transported a group of wounded people to the hospital in Kandahar city said scores had been killed and dozens more wounded in the air strike, which they said hit a wedding party.
"We are aware of the allegations and are tracking that down," said a U.S. military spokesman.
There was some confusion over whether the incident happened on Monday or Tuesday this week.
The bride was among the wounded brought to the main hospital in Kandahar city, her relative Juma Khan said. The air strike happened during a clash between foreign troops and Taliban insurgents in Shah Wali Kot, Khan said.
A Reuters witness saw three children with shrapnel wounds and seven wounded women in the hospital.
Provincial authorities refused to comment, but the Interior Ministry said it was also investigating the reports.
"We are working on it seriously. A bombardment has taken place and we are checking to see if there were civilian casualties or not. We have unconfirmed reports that there were," said ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashari.
Karzai requested U.S. President-elect Barack Obama make it his priority to end civilian casualties.
Some 4,000 people, around a third of them civilians, have been killed this year in fighting with the Taliban, who have expanded the scope and scale of their insurgency trying to oust Karzai's Western-backed government and eject foreign forces.
NATO and U.S.-led coalition troops in Afghanistan say they do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, but mistakes nevertheless happen. Far more civilians are killed in Taliban attacks, especially by suicide and roadside bombs. (Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Paul Tait)