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US air strikes killed 90 civilians, says UN

Latest update : 2008-08-26

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) claims having found "convincing evidence" that 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in US-led air strikes last week in Afghanistan.

A United Nations team has found "convincing evidence" that 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in US-led air strikes last week, the body's representative in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) human rights team was sent to the western province of Herat after local claims that scores of civilians were killed in Friday's strikes.

"Investigations by UNAMA found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men," special representative Kai Eide said.

"Fifteen other villagers were wounded or otherwise injured," he said in a statement.

A separate investigation appointed by President Hamid Karzai said at the weekend that more than 90 civilians were killed in the strikes.

The toll is one of the highest for civilians killed in military action since international troops started deploying to Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the hardline Taliban regime and root out other extremists.

The US-led coalition had initially said only 30 Taliban had died but acknowledged on Tuesday that five civilians -- two women and three children -- were also dead in the strikes which had killed a Taliban target.

"We believe those to be family members of the targeted militant, Mullah Sadiq. He was important for us to target," US Lieutenant Nathan Perry told AFP from the main US military base at Bagram north of Kabul.

The UN special representative said his team had met with the district governor and local elders on Monday and interviewed people from the affected areas.

The villagers said foreign and Afghan military personnel had entered the village on the night of August 21.

"Military operations lasted several hours during which air strikes were called in," his statement said.

"The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident with some 78 houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others," he said.

The matter was of "grave concern" to the United Nations, Eide said.

"I have repeatedly made clear that the safety and welfare of civilians must be considered above all else during the planning and conduct of all military operations," he said.

"The impact of such operations undermines the trust and confidence of the Afghan people in efforts to build a just, peaceful, and law-abiding state."

Eide called on Afghan and international troops to thoroughly review the operation to avoid a repeat of the incident.

The Afghan government Monday demanded a review of all rules regulating the international military presence in Afghanistan.

"Air strikes on civilian targets, uncoordinated house searches and illegal detention of Afghan civilians must be stopped," a cabinet statement said.

Afghanistan had made significant progress since 2001, when the Taliban regime was toppled, Karzai's spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters Tuesday, explaining the cabinet decision.

The extremists left behind them a country ruined by decades of war and mismanagement.

"Today we have structure, government, parliament, legal authorities and our national institutions have reached strength, our police and army are growing," Hamidzada said.

"The requirement of time -- as well as painful incidents of civilian casualties -- compelled the Afghan government to demand talks on regulating the presence of international forces in Afghanistan," he said.

Date created : 2008-08-26