Karzai says NATO air raids killed 50 civilians

Afghan President accused NATO troops of killing more than 50 civilians.

Updated: Feb 21, 2011, 00:26 AM IST

Asadabad: President Hamid Karzai today
accused NATO troops of killing more than 50 civilians in a
troubled province of eastern Afghanistan, as international
troops pledged to probe the allegations.

Karzai`s statement followed comments by Fazilullah
Wahidi, provincial governor of Kunar province, alleging US-led
NATO forces had killed up to 63 people, including women and
children in airstrikes on suspected rebels.

Citing information from Afghanistan`s spy agency
and local officials Karzai said "about 50 civilians have been
martyred during international military forces operations in
Ghaziabad district in Kunar province."

Adding that he "strongly condemns" the deaths,
Karzai pledged to send investigators to the remote district.

Wahidi earlier told AFP that most of the dead were
civilians including 20 women, three elderly men and a number
of children.

They were killed mostly in air raids by the ISAF
against suspected rebels in Kunar province`s Ghaziabad
district, a remote mountainous region at the feet of the Hindu
Kush ranges, he added.

Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces are
extremely sensitive in Afghanistan, where about 140,000 US-led
foreign and Afghan troops are waging a counterinsurgency
campaign to tackle a nearly 10-year Taliban-led insurgency.

NATO said today that it would also investigate the
allegations and confirmed an ongoing operation in the restive
area, but said as many as 36 insurgents had been killed.

"We are conducting an immediate assessment of these
allegations and will report our findings," said US Army
Colonel Patrick Hynes in a statement.

"ISAF reporting and weapons system video shows 36
insurgents, who were carrying weapons, were killed. This
operation took place in a very remote valley in Kunar
province, over very rugged terrain in the late night/early
morning hours," the statement added.

A human rights watchdog said earlier this month
that 2010 was the deadliest year for ordinary Afghans since
the US-led invasion of 2001, with more than 2,400 civilians
Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for
more than 60 per cent of the dead, the report by the
Afghanistan Rights Monitor said, blaming the US-led force for
21 per cent of the casualties.

A limited withdrawal of foreign forces is expected
to start from more stable provinces of Afghanistan from July.

But in the latest major attack to strike the
country, a Taliban assault on a bank in eastern Afghanistan
killed 38 people and wounded more than 70 others, officials
said today. It was the deadliest attack since June last year.