NATO apologises for deaths in Afghan airstrike
Patrol Base Pul-I-Alam: The commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan apologised on Friday for civilian deaths in a coalition airstrike earlier this week, the first confirmation by NATO forces that civilians were killed in the operation.
Marine Gen John Allen flew to Logar province to personally deliver his regrets to villagers and provincial officials for the deaths of women, children and village elders in Wednesday's pre-dawn raid to capture a Taliban operative.
Afghan officials have said the airstrike called in by NATO troops killed 18 civilians.
"I know that no apology can bring back the lives of the children or the people who perished in this tragedy and this accident, but I want you to know that you have my apology and we will do the right thing by the families," Allen told the group of about two dozen Afghans gathered at a base at the provincial capital of Pul-i-Alam.
NATO and Afghan officials have said the troops were on an operation to capture a Taliban leader who had holed up in the house in Baraki Barak district's Sajawand village. As they tried to breach the compound, they came under fire and fought back, eventually calling in an airstrike.
Allen said that the troops did not know that there were civilians inside the house when they called in the airstrike.
"They were taken under fire. A hand grenade was thrown. Three of our people were wounded. We called for the people who were shooting to come out and then the situation became more grave and innocent people were killed," he told a news agency after talking with the group gathered in Logar.
"Our weapons killed these people," Allen said.
In Logar, Allen met with the governor before taking his message to the assembled group of Baraki Barak residents and local officials. He invoked his own family, saying that he kept seeing the faces of his own children as he thought about the children who had been killed.