Afghan President Orders Probe Into Civilian Casualties in Paktia

Posted May 27th, 2012 at 3:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation into a coalition airstrike that officials say killed a family of eight in eastern Paktia province, where Afghan and international troops are trying to quell the Taliban insurgency.

A provincial government spokesman Rohullah Samoon told VOA Sunday the overnight airstrike killed a man, his wife and six children in the Gerda Serai district. He said that according to his information, the man was not linked to any insurgent group or any anti-government activities.

A coalition spokeswoman, Lieutenant Liuren Riger, confirmed that NATO returned fire after its troops were attacked by insurgents. She said fighting in Paktia erupted a day earlier after a large group of insurgents attacked the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force troops and the tactic was repeated Sunday.

“ISAF troops responded to this attack by returning fire and requesting close air support. We are aware of the claims that there were civilian casualties in Paktia province today, Coalition officials are currently looking into the claims and gathering information.”

The Afghan region where the latest incident occurred borders Pakistan and is a known hub for the Taliban, as well as the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network.

In other violence Sunday, a roadside bomb killed two civilians in the south, while NATO said three of its service members died in two separate attacks in the east.

Civilian casualties have been a source of friction between President Karzai's government and the international coalition in Afghanistan.

Last year, Afghanistan saw a sharp rise in civilian deaths, with more than three-quarters of the 3,000 fatalities blamed on insurgent attacks and 14 percent attributed to international and Afghan forces.

Earlier this month, U.N. special representative to Afghanistan Jan Kubis said civilian casualties are 20 percent lower in the first four months of 2012, compared to the same period last year. Kubis said insurgent attacks, including suicide bombings, still cause the majority of civilian deaths.