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NATO to Probe New Afghan Civilian Casualties


U.S. General David Petraeus testifies at a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on the situation in Afghanistan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 15, 2011

U.S. General David Petraeus testifies at a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on the situation in Afghanistan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 15, 2011

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has ordered an investigation into yet another case of alleged civilian casualties caused by a coalition airstrike, this time involving the mistaken killing of two Afghan children.

General David Petraeus on Wednesday suspended the ground force commander and grounded the helicopter crew involved in the latest incident in the eastern province of Kunar.

Afghan officials say a coalition airstrike killed two boys watering fields in the Chowkay district on Tuesday. A NATO spokesman had said troops were targeting suspected insurgents planting a roadside bomb.

On Wednesday, Petraeus issued a statement saying the coalition's air weapons team may have unintentionally engaged civilians who were working on field and road drainage.

The NATO commander ordered a review of the directive on the use of force by all aircrew of attack helicopters. He also said the results of the probe could lead to disciplinary action.

The latest incident occurred just two weeks after a coalition airstrike killed nine Afghan boys in Kunar.

The issue of civilian deaths by foreign troops has angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai and prompted apologies from Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

On Wednesday, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor said at least 390 civilians were killed in conflict-related security incidents in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2011 – a 7-percent increase compared to the same period last year.

The Kabul-based rights groups accused President Karzai, Taliban insurgents, the United States and NATO of politicizing the issue and called on all "warring parties" to spare no effort to protect Afghan civilians.

The Red Cross said Tuesday that security in Afghanistan deteriorated in the first two months of the year and that life for ordinary Afghans has become "untenable."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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