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Afghanistan/US – civilian deaths

US mistakes likely cause of civilian deaths in Afghanistan

Article published on the 2009-06-20 Latest update 2009-06-20 10:43 TU

People pray at a mass grave of victims of air strikes in the village of Garni killed 5 May 2009(Photo: AFP)

People pray at a mass grave of victims of air strikes in the village of Garni killed 5 May 2009
(Photo: AFP)

US forces in Afghanistan who did not follow procedures in a battle likely killed at least 26 civilians last month, said the US military. The military investigated the circumstances around a battle on 4 May with Taliban insurgents in western Afghanistan, and found that three air strikes failed to follow US combat rules, which resulted in civilian deaths.

"Not applying all of that guidance likely resulted in civilian casualties," said a summary of the internal investigation published by US Central Command Friday.

US Marines were called in to assist Afghan security forces battling about 300 Taliban near the village of Gerani in Farah province. According to the report, during the several-hour-long intense battle, US air crews and ground troops followed the rules and orders of armed conflict but three B-1 bomber air strikes did not.

The three strikes were on targets that the crews and the ground commander believed to be insurgent forces, based on intelligence reports, but this was not confirmed, according to the report.

"The inability to discern the presence of civilians and assess the potential collateral damage of those strikes is inconsistent with the US government's objective of providing security and safety for the Afghan people," the report said.

The report called for military personnel to revise combat rules to avoid civilian casualties, but not call for prosecution of any military personnel.

The military investigation concluded that 70 Taliban fighters were killed and 26 civilians, though more civilians could have been killed. The Afghan government says there were 140 civilian deaths.

The civilian deaths have angered Afghans, and President Hamdi Karzai has demanded an end to air strikes by the NATO-led forces.

Meanwhile, Saturday a soldier from the coalition was killed in a bomb explosion in the south of the country, and two other foreign soldiers also died, according to a statement from the International Security Assistance Force.

There are nearly 90,000 foreign troops based in Afghanistan.

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