KUNAR, Afghanistan — A recent NATO air strike in an eastern Afghanistan valley killed at least 62 civilians including women and children, an Afghan government investigation said Thursday.
On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused NATO of having killed more than 50 civilians in eastern Afghanistan’s troubled Kunar province, and sent a team to inquire into the alleged civilian deaths.
“After three days of investigation, we found out that 62 civilians, including women and children, were killed and 10 others injured in the NATO operation,” the head of the probe team, Shahzada Massoud, who is a Karzai adviser, told reporters in Kunar.
He did not clarify whether any insurgents were killed in the operation, but a member of the probe team, Shahzada Shahid, separately told AFP that 14 Taliban militants had also been killed, on top of the 62.
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan contacted by AFP refused to comment on the government’s findings before its own ongoing probe was completed.
There have been several instances recently in which civilians have been killed and foreign forces have been accused of indiscriminate or excessive force.
Karzai says such incidents erode support for his Western-backed administration, which faces an Islamic insurgency that has expanded every year since it was launched by the Taliban following their ouster in late 2001.
There are about 140,000 foreign forces, the bulk of them Americans, deployed in Afghanistan under the US leadership to help Kabul defeat the Taliban.
On Thursday, NATO also said it was investigating allegations that fire from one of its planes killed five civilians in Kapisa province, north-east of Kabul.
Local villagers had alleged the men were civilians hunting in the mountains of Alasai district when they were attacked by NATO planes, provincial police chief Abdul Hamid Arkin told AFP.
Civilian casualties are an extremely sensitive issue and have in the past led to major anti-US and government street protests, as well as causing rifts in Kabul’s relations with its Western allies.