4 Afghan Civilians Killed by British Drone

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 9:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The British Defense Ministry confirmed Wednesday that one of its drones killed four Afghan civilians and wounded two others during an attack on a Taliban commander in southern Helmand province.

A ministry statement issued early Wednesday said the drone, controlled from a U.S. air force base in (the southwestern state of)) Nevada, was supposed to destroy two pickup trucks carrying the commander.

The statement said two insurgents were killed in the attack on March 25 but that four Afghan civilians also died and two others were wounded. The ministry expressed deep regret about the incident.

In violence Tuesday, four NATO service members died in two separate attacks in the east as British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the capital, Kabul, and pledged to increase British aid to the country. Mr. Cameron met with a number of leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and outgoing U.S. military commander, General David Petraeus.

Prime Minister Cameron said London will provide $287 million in aid to Afghanistan in the 12 months ending in April 2012, up from $164 million in the previous 12-month period. He also announced plans to build a military academy in Afghanistan modeled after Britain's famous Sandhurst Academy.

At a joint news conference with Mr. Karzai, Mr. Cameron called on the Taliban to stop bombing, killing and fighting, and to join the political process to be a part of Afghanistan's future.

Britain has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the south, representing the second largest foreign troop contingent after the United States. Mr. Cameron said Britain will withdraw some of those forces this year and next year before ceasing all combat operations in the country by the end of 2014. He is due to provide details of the pullout to the British parliament on Wednesday.

In Islamabad Tuesday, a U.S. delegation met with Pakistani officials to discuss how to keep Afghanistan stable as NATO troops begin to leave, and how to stem the drug industry there.

The U.S. State Department's top official on international narcotics and law enforcement, Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, said the meeting was about saving lives not only in the region but globally.