Six civilians killed in NATO raid, local official says

Six civilians, including a child, were among 54 people killed in a NATO air strike on two petrol tankers that had been captured by the Taliban, the governor of the northern Kunduz province has said.


AFP - Six civilians, including a child, were among 54 people killed in a NATO air strike in Afghanistan that targeted two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, a local official said Sunday.

The driver of one of the trucks and his son were killed separately by the Taliban, Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz province, told AFP by telephone.

"According to our findings 56 people were killed. Forty-eight men were identified as armed while the rest were civilians. Fifteen were wounded, including two Taliban," said Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz province.

Of the six civilians who perished in the raid, one was a child killed inside one of the tankers, he added.

Afghan officials have given different death tolls related to the Taliban hijacking and NATO air strike, and precise figures are difficult to clarify.

"All I know is that 56 were killed and 15 were wounded. I don't have the report of how many of them were civilians," Kunduz provincial police chief General Abdul Razak Yaqubi told AFP.

The strike destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by gunmen as villagers were clamouring to collect free fuel at the Taliban's invitation, witnesses said.

While officials insisted most of the dead were militants, President Hamid Karzai, who is leading the count in controversial elections, said any targeting of civilians was unacceptable and sent a delegation to investigate.

On Saturday, the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, promised a full investigation into Friday's air strike, in which Karzai's office said 90 people were killed and wounded.

Police and the interior ministry earlier said up to 56 Taliban died and 10 more wounded, including a 12-year-old child, when a NATO air raid targeted the tankers in Kunduz after they were hijacked en route from Tajikistan.

"As commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), nothing is more important than the safety and protection of the Afghan people," McChrystal said in the 57-second video shown on private television.

"I take this possible loss of life or injury to innocent Afghans very seriously," he said. The incident renewed an outcry over civilian casualties by Western troops during the eight-year war.

McChrystal said NATO "launched an attack against what we believed to be a Taliban target" early Friday.

"I have ordered a complete investigation into the reasons and results of this attack, which I will share with the Afghan people," he said.

ISAF "has also offered emergency medical help and assistance to those who might have been injured," he said, shying away from confirming casualties.

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