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Karzai condemns US shooting of Afghan child

Comments come as US and Afghanistan struggle to reach deal to keep American troops on the ground next year.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2014 20:21
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The shooting comes at a critical time in Afghan-US negotiations to keep some troops on the ground [Reuters]

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned US troops for accidentally killing a four-year-old boy in the southern province of Helmand, in an incident set to add fresh strain to troubled relations between the two countries.

Naeem Baloch, Helmand's governor, told Karzai about the shooting on Friday during a meeting in Kabul, which comes as the US and Afghanistan wrangle over a deal to allow some US troops to remain in the country beyond this year.

"We condemn the killing of this boy in the strongest terms," Aimal Faizi, presidential spokesman, told the AFP news agency.

"We have been calling for the complete end of military operations in residential areas. This demand has not been taken seriously by foreign troops and the result is civilian casualties including women and children."

The US-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan issued a statement expressing "deepest sympathies to the family who suffered the loss of a loved one" in the incident on Wednesday and vowing to investigate "what happened and why."

Relations between the US and Afghanistan have been poor for years, and negotiations over the bilateral security agreement (BSA) have erupted into a long-running public dispute.

Karzai made a surprise decision not to sign the agreement promptly despite having pledged to do so, leading to the threat of a complete withdrawal of NATO troops by the end of 2014. It now seems unlikely that the deal will be signed on time.

Faizi said a ban on military operations in civilian areas was one of the Afghan conditions of signing the BSA.

"The ball is the US court," he said. "We are waiting for practical steps to be taken to end to these operations and for the launch of a peace process. We believe the US can deliver on these demands."

Relations between the two nations had already taken a turn for the worse on Thursday following news of the Afghan government's plan to release 72 prisoners the US considers dangerous criminals linked to "terror-related crimes".

Karzai, said there was insufficient evidence to continue holding the men at Bagram prison, a former US site now controlled by the Afghan government.

Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said on Friday that the potential release of Afghan detainees was a concern and that US officials had discussed the issue with counterparts in Kabul.

"We are very concerned about the release of any detainees who would pose a threat to US forces and this is an issue that we take quite seriously," he said.

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