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INTERNATIONAL > Afghans delve into Paktia strike

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Widespread reports that an Afghan family were killed by a NATO strike has stoked tensions between Afghan authorities and the alliance over civilian deaths. A senior NATO official says there is no evidence of any civilian casualties while the Afghan president warns the deaths may undermine a strategic partnership with Washington

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Children ride on a cart past a US soldier who secures a road during a patrol in the Zahri district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed, the UN says in its latest report. REUTERS photo

Children ride on a cart past a US soldier who secures a road during a patrol in the Zahri district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed, the UN says in its latest report. REUTERS photo

NATO has disputed widespread reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in an alliance airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said an airstrike on the night of May 26 killed eight members of a family, but a senior NATO official said the following day that there had not yet been any evidence of civilian casualties, The Associated Press reported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

The coalition said it was working to find out more about allegations that civilians were killed in the operation that foreign forces were conducting in Paktia province.

“The strike by ISAF killed four teenage boys, two teenage girls and two women and wounded two others,” said Rohullah Samon, the provincial governor’s spokesman.

The killing of civilians by foreign forces has been a major irritant in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s relationship with his international partners. He warned earlier this month that civilian casualties could undermine a strategic partnership with the United States that is to govern long-term relations after most international troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

Karzai appoints delegation

Karzai appointed a delegation to travel to Paktia and determine what happened. Afghan and coalition officials frequently offer differing accounts of military operations. In such cases, local residents typically claim civilians are killed, while the coalition says the victims are identified as insurgents. Later, if investigations prove that civilians were inadvertently killed, the coalition acknowledges its mistake.
Taliban attacks have allegedly killed more civilians than foreign forces, but public anger over the issue is usually directed at the international forces. Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed as insurgents ratcheted up violence with suicide attacks and roadside bombs, the United Nations said in its latest report on civilian deaths.

The U.N. attributed 77 percent of the deaths to insurgent attacks and 14 percent to actions by international and Afghan troops. Unknown causes were reported in 9 percent of cases.

May/29/2012

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