KABUL (Reuters) - The United Nations said it was investigating an incident in which more than 30 civilians were killed in U.S. air strikes called in support of a special forces raid on suspected Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan on Thursday.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said at least 32 people had been killed and 19 wounded in the strikes in Buz Kandahari near Kunduz, the vast majority women and children.
The deaths add to a growing civilian casualty total in Afghanistan, where 95 have been killed and 111 injured in the past week alone, according to U.N. figures.
“The loss of civilian life is unacceptable and undermines efforts toward building peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.
“When conducting aerial operations, international military forces should take all feasible measures to minimize civilian harm, including full analysis of the context for aerial strikes,” he said in a statement.
The U.S. military acknowledged on Saturday that the air strikes had probably caused civilian casualties and promised an investigation. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, expressed deep regret for the loss of innocent life.
The strikes were called in to protect a team of Afghan special forces and their U.S. advisers who came under heavy fire during a raid on suspected Taliban commanders. Three Afghan soldiers and two Americans were killed in the fighting.
Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Ros Russell