Bombs rock Afghanistan, killing dozens of civilians
KANDAHAR / KABUL
Afghan villagers gather at a house destroyed in an apparent NATO raid in Logar province, south of Kabul. NATO say multiple insurgents killed in the air strike. AP Photo
Dozens of civilians were killed in a bloody day across Afghanistan yesterday as a twin suicide bombing ripped through a crowded makeshift bazaar and a NATO air strike hit a home, Afghan officials said.
Two NATO soldiers were also killed in a helicopter crash, the cause of which was under investigation, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. Twenty-three people were killed and 50 others were wounded in the suicide attack in a car park crammed with vehicles supplying the largest NATO base in southern Afghanistan, police said.
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck first and as a crowd gathered to help the victims a second bomber walked into their midst and set off explosives strapped to his body, Kandahar provincial police chief General Abdul Raziq told Agence France-Presse. “All casualties are civilians, not a single military person,” he said. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Hours earlier, at least 15 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a NATO air strike on a home in Logar province south of Kabul, police said. ISAF said “multiple insurgents” were killed in the air strike, which was ordered after troops were attacked “with small-arms fire and a grenade.”
But deputy provincial police Chief Rais Khan Sadeq Abdulrahimzai said: “18 civilians, including women and children, are dead”, adding that seven Taliban insurgents were also killed. ISAF said in a statement a “precision” air strike was called in after coalition forces were fired on during an operation to detain a leader of the hard-line Taliban insurgents.
Civilian casualties caused by NATO have roiled relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States, which leads NATO forces in the fight against the Taliban. A little over a week ago, Karzai ordered an investigation after Afghan officials said a NATO air strike killed a family of eight, including six children, in eastern Afghanistan. Two weeks before that, Karzai summoned ISAF commander General John Allen and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker to the presidential palace after a number of civilians were killed in other NATO air strikes.
For the past five years the number of civilians killed in the war has risen steadily, reaching a record of 3,021 in 2011, with the vast majority caused by insurgents, the United Nations says.