Afghan family killed in Western raid, official says

PUL-I-ALAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Western forces have killed eleven members of an Afghan family in an air strike near Kabul, the head of a provincial council said on Tuesday.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan fuel resentment of foreign forces and the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai who has repeatedly beseeched U.S. and NATO troops to do everything they can to minimize civilian deaths.

“We welcomed the international community to Afghanistan to launch a joint campaign against terrorism and the Taliban,” Karzai told Chanel 4 News on a visit to London.

“But six years on the continuation of civilian casualties is something the Afghan people cannot understand, and rightly so,” he added. “It is becoming increasingly a difficult subject for us and is going to cause friction.”

Provincial council leader Haji Janan told Reuters the latest incident occurred on Monday in Jalrez, 30 km (20 miles) west of the capital.

“In the bombardment ... 11 people from one family, including women and children were killed,” Janan said.

“The only survivor from the family is a man who is hospitalized and can’t speak,” he said. Eleven neighbors were wounded, he added.

NATO said it had carried out an air raid against militants in a remote area of Wardak province, to the southwest of Kabul, killing a number of insurgents.

An alliance spokesman said preliminary indications showed there were no civilian casualties. He said NATO was checking media reports that non-combatants had been killed.

Violence in Afghanistan has increased sharply in the past two years, the bloodiest period since Taliban’s removal in 2001.

Taliban fighters have spread into Wardak in recent months and have been launching regular attacks on Afghan forces, and sometimes on Western troops.

Figures supplied by the United Nations, Afghan officials and foreign forces indicate more than 7,000 people have been killed in the past two years, many of them insurgents but also including hundreds of civilians.

More than 370 civilians have been killed this year during operations by Western forces against militants, according to estimates by aid workers and Afghan officials.

Western forces dispute such estimates but say some civilians have been killed, mostly when the Taliban attack from civilian houses.

Faced with criticism over rampant corruption, insecurity, booming drugs cultivation and perceived lack of development, Karzai has warned that civilian deaths would be risky for his government and the presence of foreign troops in the country.

Separately, one NATO soldier was killed and two others were wounded during fighting with Taliban insurgents in the violent eastern Kunar province on Tuesday, a military statement said.

It said the wounded soldiers were in stable condition.

One U.S-led coalition soldier was killed and another was wounded in a vehicle accident in the Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province on Tuesday, the U.S military said.

additional reporting by Jeremy Lovell in London