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NATO Air Strike Kills Nearly 90 in Afghanistan

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A NATO air strike in Afghanistan is said to have killed dozens of  Taliban militants and many civilians. As many as 90 people are reported killed in the incident.

Afghan and NATO officials say that Taliban insurgents in the northern Kunduz province were driving two hijacked fuel trucks to an unknown destination when fighter planes located them on a river bank and bombed them.

NATO officials say the pre-dawn strike destroyed the fuel trucks and killed a large number of militants. Villagers, however, say locals had also gathered around the hijacked trucks to collect fuel from them when the attack occurred. It caused a huge fireball, they say, that instantly burned most of the people alive.

Abdul Razzaq Yaqubi, the provincial police chief says that 56 Taliban were among those killed. He said most of people being treated in local hospitals are in critical condition.

President Hamid Karzai has set up a panel to investigate Friday's attack, saying targeting civilians is unacceptable for the Afghans.

Zamarai Bashary is the Interior Ministry spokesman in Kabul.

"In order to verify the casualties of civilians we have launched an investigation into this case to make sure how many civilians are killed and to make sure that what these civilians were doing at 2:30 in the morning [when the attack occurred] in that place that is not a residential place. So these are questions that we have to investigate and find answers for this," he said.

Local authorities in Kunduz say a large number of civilians are among the victims and many of the bodies were reportedly burned beyond recognition.

NATO commanders insisted the air strike was aimed at insurgents and launched after forces determined there were no civilians in the area. But they say an investigation into civilian casualties is under way with the help of Afghan authorities.

The northern Kunduz province borders Tajikistan and it is known as a relatively peaceful Afghan province.

Critics say that reports of civilian deaths are likely to fuel public anger over foreign forces in Afghanistan. The incident comes two months after the new commander of the international forces, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, put in place new measures to prevent civilian casualties that he says undermine an anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan. 

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