NATO accused of killing six Afghan civilians
Kabul: Afghan government officials on Thursday accused NATO of killing six civilians, including an 11-year-old girl, during a military operation targeting the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.
A demonstration broke out after bodies of the dead were carried through the eastern city of Khost and the provincial council announced it was going on strike in protest at the killing until a proper investigation was ordered.
NATO said its troops killed insurgents linked to the Haqqani network during gunfights in the area, but said only one civilian was wounded.
"A teacher, a student, an 11-year-old girl and three other ordinary people were killed in the operation. They were civilians, innocent people," said Khost provincial spokesman Mubarez Zadar.
"The coalition forces were given the wrong information and based on wrong information, they carried out an operation," he said.
The provincial council said it had gone on strike in protest.
"We won't open until a thorough investigation into the incident," it said.
Civilian casualties are an inflammatory issue between US-led foreign forces and President Hamid Karzai who issued a "last warning" to the military in early June to avoid "arbitrary and unnecessary" operations that kill civilians.
On Thursday, the United Nations said the number of civilians killed in the Afghan war in the first half of 2011 was up 15 percent, putting the year on track to be the deadliest in a decade.
A statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it had reports of only one female civilian wounded during a battle with insurgents and that she had since been given medical treatment.
ISAF said six Haqqani fighters had been killed, including one armed woman.
"The security force was attacked by several armed insurgents while attempting to clear a compound near a coalition base in the district," it said.
The military said the fighters were killed in three subsequent firefights, all of which were triggered by insurgent gunfire.
The UN mission in Afghanistan said insurgents accounted for 80 percent of all civilian deaths in the past six months and NATO troops 14 percent of killings.