In Afghanistan NATO probes claims of civilian casualties in Afghan airstrike

Scores of Taliban militants were killed in an airstrike that also left at least one civilian dead and six wounded in the northeastern province of Kunduz...

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A NATO logo at the headquarters of the Resolute Support mission: claims of civilian casualties from an airstrike are being investigated play

A NATO logo at the headquarters of the Resolute Support mission: claims of civilian casualties from an airstrike are being investigated

(POOL/AFP/File)
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NATO's mission in Afghanistan was investigating claims Monday that civilians were killed or injured during a joint operation with Afghan troops over the weekend.

Scores of Taliban militants were killed in an airstrike that also left at least one civilian dead and six wounded in the northeastern province of Kunduz, provincial governor Asadullah Omarkhail told reporters.

But a villager in Char Dara district, which was targeted by the airstrike, told AFP that 11 civilians had been killed in the operation against insurgents.

"The Taliban ordered the villagers to go to the site of the airstrike and remove the dead and wounded Taliban fighters. There were 16 killed -- 11 of them were civilians," said the villager, Naqibullah.

Provincial council member Khosh Mohammad said 13 civilians died in the attack, including women and children, and 13 others were wounded.

"People abandoned their homes out of fear but some stayed to protect their houses," Mohammad told AFP.

It is not clear if the airstrike was conducted by Afghan or US forces and whether it happened Friday or Saturday.

Kunduz army commander Brigadier General Zmarai Faizy said villagers in Char Dara had been given advance warning of the military operation and told to leave their homes.

"The Taliban forced the villagers to evacuate the bodies of their fighters from the rubble -- maybe they killed the civilians and blamed the Afghan forces for it," Faizy said.

Captain Tom Gresback, spokesman for the NATO mission known as Resolute Support, said an investigation was under way.

"Resolute Support takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously," Gresback said in a statement posted on Twitter late Sunday.

Civilian casualties from airstrikes -- a politically sensitive issue in Afghanistan -- have surged this year as the United States intensifies aerial bombardments and Afghanistan's fledgling air force carries out its own bombings.

US aircraft dropped 751 bombs and missiles on Taliban and Islamic State militants in September, up 50 percent from August and the highest since October 2010, according to US Air Forces Central Command data.

A recent UN report showed 466 civilian deaths or injuries from airstrikes between January and September, up 52 percent from the same period last year, with women and children accounting for more than two thirds of the victims.

The US is the only foreign force in Afghanistan carrying out airstrikes.

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