A house in Kandahar Province that Afghans say was hit by a missile. (photo: NY Times)
US airstrike kills 40 civilians in Afghanistan
Kabul: Forty Afghan civilians were killed and 28 others injured when coalition forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar, officials and witnesses said on Wednesday.
The US-led coalition forces backed by helicopter gunships pounded on the Taliban positions in Shah Wali Kot district after militants attacked them. One of the bombs mistakenly hit a wedding party in Wech Baghtu village, killing and wounding dozens as a result, witnesses said.
A statement issued by Afghanistan president’s office on Wednesday said 40 people were killed and 28 others injured in a coalition forces’ airstrike in Shah Wali Kot district. “President Hamid Karzai has stressed repeatedly in the past that civilian casualties should be avoided but coalition forces carry out bombings without planning,” the statement said.
Earlier, the owner of the wedding hall told Xinhua that at least 37 civilians, including 10 women and 23 children, were killed. Local residents were still searching the debris for their relatives’ bodies on Wednesday. Many fear the toll may increase.
Meanwhile, US security forces have launched an investigation into the incident. “Though facts are unclear at this point, we take very seriously our responsibility to protect the people of Afghanistan and to avoid circumstances where noncombatant civilians are placed at risk,” a US military statement said.
While congratulating Barack Obama on his victory in Tuesday’s US presidential elections, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday called on the new leadership to take steps to prevent harming civilians in military operations.
Currently, around 70,000 US and NATO soldiers are fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. “Our first demand is to avoid harming civilians in Afghanistan,” Karzai said.