Kabul: The governor of a province in northeastern Afghanistan said on Monday a NATO airstrike killed four police officers at a checkpoint in the remote and mountainous region.
Jamaluddin Badar said coalition forces also detained 12 police officers after the airstrike. He strongly condemned the attack and arrests, which he said occurred late Sunday in the Wama district of the largely lawless Nuristan province bordering Pakistan.
"As a result of this airstrike, four police were killed and two were wounded. After the airstrike, coalition forces took 12 police with them from the checkpoint, while the flag of Afghanistan flew from the checkpoint and all police were in uniform," Badar said in a statement.
The international military coalition said it was "aware of a statement from Afghan officials in Nuristan province alleging a friendly fire incident in eastern Afghanistan”. It said it is investigating the report.
Nuristan is a sparsely populated province where the Taliban and other insurgent groups control large swaths of territory. Al Qaeda is also thought to have a presence in the area. Fighting has intensified in eastern Afghanistan, especially in the provinces that run along Pakistan`s tribal areas, where insurgents retain safe havens from which they train and organise attacks against Afghan and coalition forces across the border.
Mistaken airstrikes and night-raids are the leading cause of tension between the US-led coalition and the Afghan government. President Hamid Karzai has demanded that the coalition take steps to ensure that airstrikes do not cause accidental deaths. The United Nations said in its midyear report that airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition remained the leading cause of civilian deaths by pro-government forces.
In the first six months of the year, 79 civilian deaths were attributed to airstrikes — up 14 percent from the same period last year. These include all attacks or airstrikes from military aircraft, including munitions dropped or fired from airplanes, helicopters and drones, the UN report said.
"The repetition of such mistakes will have bad effect on the police ranks in the province," Badar said in a statement. It is unclear how many forces the US-led coalition has in the province, where security is provided largely by a small force of Afghan police.
The US-led coalition has said it will intensify its efforts to fight insurgents in the east after focusing its efforts for the past year on southern Afghanistan — especially in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. The coalition has claimed significant security gains in the south, but violence has been escalation around the country in the months following the start of a Taliban offensive in April.