An independent Afghan rights group says most of those killed last week
in a controversial NATO airstrike on two hijacked fuel trucks were
"non-combatants." The deadly attack is now the subject of a NATO
The NATO air strike took place Friday in the
northern Kunduz Province. The attack was directed at a group of
Taliban insurgents who had seized two trucks carrying fuel for
As many as 90 people were reported
killed in the air strike and initial reports from the local Afghan
population described most of the victims as civilians. The allegations
prompted U.S commander of the international forces in Afghanistan,
General Stanley McChrystal, to order a detailed investigation into the
The NATO investigation has yet to be concluded, but
a leading Afghan rights group says its findings reveal that most of
those killed were civilians.
In a report issued Monday, the
Kabul-based Afghanistan Rights Monitors (ARM) says that up 70 civilians
were killed in the Kunduz attack while the rest were armed militants.
The group's director, Ajmal Samadi, says that the report is based on
some 15 interviews with villagers where the NATO strike occurred. He
says provincial authorities are trying to play down the significance of
the civilian deaths in order to influence the NATO probe.
McChrystal and the NATO investigators should bear this fact in mind
that regardless of the support to the Taliban, those killed were
non-combatants and their killing was a violation of the tactical order
General McChrystal issued a few while ago in order to prevent such
incidents," Samadi said.
This is the first incident
in which NATO forces have been blamed for the deaths of large numbers
of civilians since General McChrystal took command of foreign forces in
Afghanistan two months ago. The U.S. commander made the prevention of
civilian casualties and protection of Afghans the centerpiece of his
new military strategy.
In an unprecedented televised appeal to
the Afghan people after the Kunduz attack, General McChrystal said he
took the loss of civilian life very seriously.
Samadi of the
Afghan rights group says that Taliban insurgents are inflicting, as he
puts it, systematic, deliberate and widespread harm to Afghan
civilians. But he says that extensive losses and damage to
non-combatants in aerial strikes by international forces have seriously
undermined NATO's credibility among ordinary Afghans.
of who is killing Afghan civilians, they will consider themselves as
caught up among warring parties," Samadi said. "They will consider that NATO is not
different from the Taliban when it comes to protecting civilians unless
NATO will prove to them that it is an honest broker here that it cares
about their protection that it acknowledges mistakes that it
compensates where possible and that it does everything to reduce the
recurrence of similar incidents in future."
say that a growing Taliban insurgency across Afghanistan combined with
an increase of thousands of new foreign troops has intensified fighting
in Afghanistan leading to more civilian casualties.