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Nato apologises for civilian deaths

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An official apology was issued on behalf of top coalition commanders including General David Petraeus

An official apology was issued on behalf of top coalition commanders including General David Petraeus

An official apology was issued on behalf of top coalition commanders including General David Petraeus

Nato officials have apologised for an airstrike that inadvertently killed a group of women and children, saying that they thought there were only insurgents inside the targeted compound when they ordered the strike.

Accidental deaths of civilians from coalition military operations are an ongoing source of tension between Afghans and Nato. The international coalition has sharply reduced the number of civilians killed in its operations but Afghan officials say any civilian deaths from allied strikes are unacceptable.

Southwest regional commander US Marine Major General John Toolan issued an official apology on behalf of top coalition commanders General David Petraeus and Lieutenant General David Rodriguez for the killing of civilians in Saturday's attack.

"I want to offer my sincere apologies for the nine civilians who were killed during the incident in Nawzad district, Helmand province," Maj Gen Toolan said. The Afghan government has said 14 civilians were killed, including at least 10 children and two women.

Maj Gen Toolan said that the airstrike was launched after an insurgent attack on a coalition patrol in the district killed a Marine. Five insurgents occupied a compound and continued to attack coalition troops, who called in an airstrike "to neutralise the threat," he said.

"Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians," Maj Gen Toolan said. "A full investigation is ongoing to determine the exact details of this incident. While I know there is no price on human life we will ensure that we make amends with the families in accordance with Afghan culture."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack in a statement and warned the coalition that such errors cannot continue.

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"American and Nato forces have been told repeatedly that uncoordinated operations will only kill innocent civilians and that such operations are inhumane. It seems that the lesson has not been learned," Mr Karzai said in a statement.

"This will be the last warning to Nato and American forces, and American officials," he said. He did not say what action he would take if another strike results in civilian deaths.

It is unclear what leverage Mr Karzai ultimately has over military operations conducted by Nato, which is working in Afghanistan under an international mandate.


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