News24

Nato apologises for Afghan deaths

2012-06-08 18:01

Patrol Base Pul-I-Alam - The commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan apologised on Friday for civilian deaths in a coalition airstrike earlier this week - the first confirmation by Nato forces that civilians were killed in the operation.

Marine General John Allen flew to Logar province to personally deliver his regrets to villagers and provincial officials for the deaths of women, children and village elders in Wednesday's pre-dawn raid to capture a Taliban operative.

Afghan officials have said the airstrike called in by Nato troops killed 18 civilians.

"I know that no apology can bring back the lives of the children or the people who perished in this tragedy and this accident, but I want you to know that you have my apology and we will do the right thing by the families," Allen told the group of about two dozen Afghans gathered at a base at the provincial capital of Pul-i-Alam.

Nato and Afghan officials have said the troops were on an operation to capture a Taliban leader who had holed up in the house in Baraki Barak district's Sajawand village. As they tried to breach the compound, they came under fire and fought back, eventually calling in an airstrike.

Villagers have said there was a wedding at the house the evening before and that it was full of families visiting for the celebration. The morning after the bombing, they piled the bodies of the dead into vans and drove them to the provincial capital to protest the strike.

Grave situation

An Afghan doctor who examined the bodies and interviewed two women injured in the airstrike said a group of Taliban fighters decided to spend the night in the house because they thought the wedding would provide them cover.

When Nato and Afghan troops started advancing on the house in the middle of the night, they called out for civilians to come out, but the insurgents didn't allow them to leave, said Wali Wakil.

"The Taliban stopped them from getting out of the house," Wakil said. He said the 18 dead civilians including four women, two old men, three teenage boys and nine young children. Six Taliban fighters were also killed, Wakil said, citing the witnesses.

Allen said that the troops did not know that there were civilians inside the house when they called in the airstrike.

"They were taken under fire. A hand grenade was thrown. Three of our people were wounded. We called for the people who were shooting to come out and then the situation became more grave and innocent people were killed," he said after talking with the group gathered in Logar.

"Our weapons killed these people," Allen said.

Full account called for

In Logar, Allen met with the governor before taking his message to the assembled group of Baraki Barak residents and local officials. He invoked his own family, saying that he kept seeing the faces of his own children as he thought about the children who had been killed.

Nighttime raids on militants taking cover in villages have been a repeated source of strain between the Afghan government, which says the raids put civilians in the crossfire, and its international allies, who say such operations are key to capturing and killing insurgent leaders.

A deal signed in April was supposed to resolve the issue by putting the Afghan government in charge of such operations and the troops involved in the Wednesday raid included both Nato and Afghan military.

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has put the blame for this week's deaths squarely on the international coalition, condemning their actions and calling for them to give a full account of how civilians ended up dead.

Comments
  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-08 18:35

    It's hard to find the words for this. Tragic. Horrifying. Mostly for the families left behind. Deep sorrow. Deep condolences to the families. It is essential that better intelligence is put together before such decisions are taken. This should not happen. The freer world has to get better at this, better at executing their stated intention of zero civilian casualties. Drone attacks have the potential of reducing the need for war. They should not harm innocent people.

  • afrikeni - 2012-06-08 19:04

    Imagine if it were Americans killed, we will not hear the end of it. For them they expect just an apology to be enough! Let one American be kidnapped (it does not matter the reason - the innocent are killed) somewhere - you will think an atmic bomb has been dropped on America.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-08 19:15

      How do you know what 350 million Americans feel about this?

  • nkosikos - 2012-06-08 19:22

    Barbarians, why kill the entire village? Idiots

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-08 23:59

      Barbarians intentionally kill civilians. NATO doesn't.

  • Fidel - 2012-06-08 21:15

    Amerika, killing brown people since the 1600s. Amerika loves killing, too much! The US should keep off other countries, it brings only death and destruction. The GREATEST killer of modern times!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-08 21:43

      Syria happens when the freer world does nothing

      ndumiso.mavuso.5 - 2012-06-09 07:42

      @ fred- i feel for you my friend. you still have a lot to learn about yo righeous nato! they are criminals of the highest order! they make mugabe look like a saint! By the way; what are they in afghanistan for?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-09 14:17

      What you say is not true. So it's irrelevant. Nato is in Afghanistan because Al-Quaida launched a massive attack on the freer world on 9/11 that killed civilians from 90 countries. Al-Quaida infiltrated the country after the Soviet Union left, leaving a leadership and institutional void there. Al-Quaida thrives on lawlessness. Nato is ensuring the country will not be used this way again. Billions are being poured into it to set up government institutions, a police force, a military, schools, hospitals, roads, etc. For example, today 2.5 million girls are in school. Before the US and Nato intervened, none were.

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