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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Afghanistan: Nato airstrike in Kunar 'kills civilians'

Afghanistan: Nato airstrike in Kunar 'kills civilians'

A Nato airstrike on Saturday in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar has killed 15 people including nine civilians, Afghan officials say.
But a Nato spokeswoman told the BBC that a precision attack killed 10 insurgents and that she had no reports of civilians dying.
The Taliban frequently launch attacks in Kunar province, a volatile area bordering Pakistan.
Civilian casualties are a source of tension between Afghan and Nato forces.
Afghan Kunar
In February President Karzai ordered a ban on Afghan security forces calling in airstrikes in residential areas after 10 civilians were allegedly killed in a Nato night attack in Kunar.
Nato troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and have gradually been handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts, who now lead about 90% of all security operations.
Yet the Afghan air force has limited strength, so Nato air support is considered crucial, especially for operations in harsh terrain and mountainous areas.
Big presence
Police in Kunar told the BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul that the airstrike hit a pick-up truck soon after three Arab and three Afghan militants boarded it in the village of Gambir in the remote and mountainous Peach River Valley in Watapur district on Saturday evening.
Afghan National Army soldiers test fire a Howitzer gun during a training session in Kunar The Afghan National Army faces a stern challenge in Kunar province from the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters
Officials say that women and children were among the casualties.
The Kunar area has been the site of intense fighting between the Taliban and American and Afghan forces for much of the last 10 years.
In August 2012 a US drone attack in Kunar killed Mullah Dadullah, a high-ranking Pakistani Taliban commander. In May of that year Nato said that an airstrike had killed senior al-Qaeda leader Sakhar al-Taifi in the same province.
About 1,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded in the first half of this year - most of them in insurgent attacks -according to the United Nations.
This represents a 23% increase in casualties compared to the same period last year.