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Six civilians killed in NATO raid: Afghan official

Last Updated: Sunday, September 6, 2009 - 12:41

Kunduz: Six civilians, including a child, were among 54 people killed in a NATO air strike in Afghanistan that targeted two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, a local official said on Sunday.
The driver of one of the trucks and his son were killed separately by the Taliban, Mohammad Omar, the Governor of Kunduz province, said by telephone.

"According to our findings 56 people were killed. Forty-eight men were identified as armed while the rest were civilians. Fifteen were wounded, including two Taliban," said Omar.

Of the six civilians who perished in the raid, one was a child killed inside one of the tankers, he added.

Afghan officials have given different death tolls related to the Taliban hijacking and NATO air strike, and precise figures are difficult to clarify.

The US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan on Saturday promised a full investigation into the air strike, but stopped short of admitting any civilians had been killed.

General Stanley McChrystal, in a statement broadcast on Afghan TV, said he had ordered a "complete investigation”.

"As commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), nothing is more important than the safety and protection of the Afghan people," McChrystal said in the 57-second video shown on private Tolo TV.

"I take this possible loss of life or injury to innocent Afghans very seriously," he said of the incident that renewed an outcry over civilian casualties by Western troops during the eight-year war.

The video, made by ISAF and addressed to "the great people of Afghanistan," was broadcast throughout the day dubbed into local languages Pushtu and Dari.

McChrystal said NATO "launched an attack against what we believed to be a Taliban target" early Friday.

"I have ordered a complete investigation into the reasons and results of this attack, which I will share with the Afghan people," he said.

ISAF "has also offered emergency medical help and assistance to those who might have been injured," he said, shying away from confirming casualties.

Villagers in the northern Kunduz province, where the bombing happened, were mourning their dead at memorial services Saturday. President Hamid Karzai`s office said 90 people were killed and injured.

Police and the Interior Ministry said up to 56 Taliban died and 10 more wounded, including a 12-year-old child, when a NATO air raid targeted the tankers after they were hijacked en route from Tajikistan to Kabul.

The strike destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban gunmen as villagers were clamouring to collect free fuel at the insurgents` invitation, witnesses said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, September 6, 2009 - 12:41

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