NATO air strike kills at least five civilians: Officials

At least five civilians, including two young girls, were killed in an air strike by NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan Saturday, police and hospital officials said.

Khost (Afghanistan): At least five
civilians, including two young girls, were killed in an air
strike by NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan Saturday, police and
hospital officials said.

"We have received five bodies of civilians in our
provincial public hospital," Khost provincial health director
Amirbadshah Rahmatzai Mangal said.

"The dead include two female children of seven and
eight years of age. A 14-year-old boy was wounded."

Khost provincial police chief general Abdul Hakim
Ishaqzai said six civilians were killed by the bombing, which
targeted Taliban militants in the mountainous area on the
Pakistan border.

"The coalition forces bombed Taliban positions in Musa
Khel district of Khost province today, which resulted in the
killing of 38 Taliban and six civilians," he said.

The Afghan interior ministry and NATO could not
confirm the incident, but said they were investigating.

Civilian casualties are an incendiary issue in
Afghanistan and are often used by the Afghan government of
President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban alike for political
ends, even though most are caused by the insurgents.

Civilian deaths caused by Western troops fell 28
percent last year compared to the year before, according to a
UN study which attributed the drop to measures taken
specifically to protect civilians.

Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, US General
Stanley McChrystal, has made minimising civilian casualties a
central tenet of his counter-insurgency strategy and has
ordered reduced air strikes to help achieve the objective.

The vast majority of the 2,142 civilians killed in the
Afghan war in 2009 died in Taliban attacks, the UN`s Mission
for Afghanistan said, but it was the deadliest year for
ordinary Afghans since the 2001 US-led invasion.

PTI

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