US general promises inquiry into NATO air strike

Last Updated: Saturday, September 5, 2009 - 23:18

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

General Stanley McChrystal, in a statement broadcast on Afghan TV, said he had ordered a "complete investigation" into a NATO air strike on Friday in which Afghan officials said 90 people were killed and wounded.

"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 90 people were killed and injured.

Police and the interior ministry said up to 56 Taliban were killed 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 air strike destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban gunmen as villagers were clamouring to collect free fuel at the insurgents` invitation, witnesses said.

While officials insisted most of the dead were insurgents, Karzai -- leading the count in fraud-tainted elections -- said that any targeting of civilians was unacceptable.

A delegation from the defence and interior ministries travelled to Kunduz to begin investigations ordered by Karzai, an interior ministry official said.

Bureau Report




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