Roundup: Afghan official, witness say 85 civilians killed by NATO air strike

At least 85 civilians were killed by a NATO air strike in a village of the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, an Afghan official and a witness told Xinhua on Thursday.

Bismillah Afghanmal, a member of the provincial council of Kandahar, said a NATO air strike killed 85 civilians including women and children on Tuesday night in Nangawat village in Panjwai district of the province.

He said there was no information of Taliban casualties in the bombardment.

Meanwhile, Ghulam Hasan, a villager from Nangawat, said about 90 civilians were killed and several injured in the NATO bombing.

Fifty civilian bodies had been dug out from the rubble until Wednesday, he added.

According to locals, 20 injured civilians from Panjwai district have been taken to Mir Wais hospital in Kandahar city, the provincial capital. But doctors in the hospital reached by Xinhua declined to make comment on the issue.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has a different saying on the matter.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, ISAF said the troops killed 48 insurgents in Panjwai and the neighboring Zhari district on Tuesday.

However, it admitted "ISAF has since received credible reports that there were a number of civilian casualties including women and children" arising from the conflicts.

The statement said ISAF could confirm four civilians were injured by ISAF firing and had been taken to hospital.

"ISAF has been informed that the Afghan Ministry of Defense is sending a delegation to the region to investigate these incidents and ISAF will fully cooperate with this investigation," it added.

Zhari and Panjwai districts, about 40 km west of Kandahar city is the birthplace of the fundamentalist Taliban movement and has been a stronghold of Taliban militants.

The two districts were also the focus of a major ISAF military operation in September named Operation Medusa, during which ISAF said at least 500 Taliban insurgents were killed.

Meantime, in a statement released on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it "is very concerned by reports that a great number of civilians may have died during the conduct of military operations" in Nangawat village.

"The United Nations has always made clear that the safety and welfare of civilians must always come first and any civilian casualties are unacceptable," it added.

Foreign military actions have caused civilian casualties in Afghanistan from time to time.

The U.S.-led coalition forces killed seven civilians in an operation in the eastern Kunar province in April.

The previous worst incident of civilian deaths happened in July 2002, when a U.S. air strike in the southern Uruzgan province killed 48 civilians and wounded 117 others, many of them celebrating at a wedding party.

Source: Xinhua

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