Afghan president condemns deadly NATO strike

Hamid Karzai accuses NATO of killing 16 civilians in air strike in eastern Kunar province.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned a NATO air strike in the east of the country that he said left 16
    civilians dead, according to a statement from his office.

    "Hamid Karzai considers attacking women and children against all accepted international norms and strongly condemns it," Sunday's statement read a day after air strikes hit Kunar province.

    NATO said 10 fighters died in Saturday's strike, and that it had no reports of any civilian deaths.

    The latest disputed air strike occurred in the Watapur district of Kunar province, which lies near the border with Pakistan.

    It is a stronghold for armed groups, and many Arab and other foreign fighters are believed to operate there alongside the Afghan Taliban.

    Some are suspected of links to the al-Qaeda network.

    Kunar province police chief Abdul Habib Sayed Khaili said the air strike hit a pick-up truck carrying women and children in Qoro village soon after three Arab and three Afghan fighters boarded it on Saturday evening.

    He said some reports called it a drone strike, but that Afghan officials had been unable to confirm that.

    Civilians infuriated

    Of the 16 dead, four were women, four children and one the driver, the police official said.

    Watapur district chief Zalmai Yousefi confirmed the air strike.

    NATO spokeswoman 1st Lieutenant AnnMarie Annicelli confirmed that the military alliance carried out a "precision strike" that killed 10 "enemy forces," but that it had received no reports of any civilians dying in the air strike.

    Annicelli had no immediate details on who exactly the dead were or what prompted the air strike.

    Civilian deaths in NATO operations have long been a sore point between the Afghan government and the US-led troops in the country, and they have been a major factor in the animosity many Afghans feel towards foreign forces.

    Conflicting accounts of who or how many died also are common, especially when remote, dangerous regions are involved and access by independent observers is restricted.

    The president, Hamid Karzai, has spoken out forcefully against them and banned Afghan troops from requesting NATO air strikes during operations in residential areas.

    About 1,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded in the first half of this year, a big number of them in insurgent attacks, according to the United Nations.

    That marks a 24 percent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year.

    Huge explosion

    Meanwhile, a powerful explosion went off near an Afghan intelligence office in the country's east on Sunday, killing at least six people, local officials told Al Jazeera.

    The officials said the people were in a minivan driving past the site when the bomb exploded.

    Hazrat Janan, a member of the council that governs Wardak province, said the blast shattered windows of buildings in a wide stretch of Maidanshar city.

    He said that gunshots were heard in the area immediately after the blast.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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