AT least 14 civilians were killed and six wounded in a NATO air strike in southern Afghanistan today.
US Marines in Nawzad district of Helmand province called in air support fter their base came under attack from small arms fire, the provincial governor’s office said in a statement.
“During the air strike, two civilian houses were targeted which killed 14 civilians and six others were wounded,” it said.
The statement said the dead included five girls, seven boys and two women.
“ISAF are aware of the reports that civilians were allegedly killed in an ISAF air strike,” said Major Tim James, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
“(The) Regional Command South West has sent a joint assessment team to the area to look into the allegation and they will issue their findings to the press.”
Aslam, a local elder of Nawzad district, told AFP he “lost 12 relatives while 10 others including children were injured” in the air strike.
He said some shots were fired at ISAF helicopters which flew into the area, adding that the choppers returned after 10 to 20 minutes and fired rockets, killing the “innocent civilians”.
According to him, five children, five men and two women were killed in the attack.
Civilian casualties in military operations are a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called on foreign forces to do more to prevent them.
There are around 130,000 NATO-led foreign troops in Afghanistan, fighting a Taliban-led insurgency since the 2001 invasion brought down their Islamist regime in Kabul.