President Karzai calls on NATO to halt airstrikes on Afghan houses

09:45, June 01, 2011      

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday criticized the NATO-led forces over alleged killing of civilians and strongly called for a ban of aerial raids on Afghan houses.

"This is my 'last warning' to the NATO forces. No more air strike on the houses of Afghans will be allowed," Karzai told reporters at a news conference in his fortified Palace here in Afghan capital Kabul.

The Afghan leader made these comments in the wake of killing of 14 civilians in an air strike Saturday in Taliban hub southern Helmand province.

"Afghans suffer from both the terrorism and the war against terrorism," the President said, noting on the same day when two top police officials were killed by Taliban militants in north of the country, and another 11 innocent children had been killed by NATO airstrike in the south on Saturday.

However, NATO commanders have apologized for the deaths, stressing nine civilians were killed when the troops came under attack from some houses by Taliban insurgents and that troops retaliated which left nine dead in Helmand, some 555 km south of capital Kabul.

The deaths of Afghan civilians by NATO-led troops during operations against Taliban have long been a contentious issue between the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO forces in the insurgency-hit country.

Afghan officials had in the past stressed such deaths would further undermine the war against Taliban and terrorist groups and inflame an anti-foreign sentiment in the country.

The Afghan leader, under strain from Afghan public, has long been criticizing the NATO and U.S. forces over their erroneous killing of civilians since the war against terror begun in late 2001.

"No more plea and excuse will be accepted over the air attacks and that aerial bombing of Afghan houses must be stopped," Karzai.

"If such attack repeats and continues then it would be indicative of arbitrary act by occupying forces," Afghan President further said.

"If it is repeated Afghanistan has a lot of ways to stop it," Karzai said adding the issue will be the main topic of his meeting with NATO military leaders in coming days in Kabul.

The move came only days after President Karzai ordered his Defense Ministry to prevent foreign troops from uncoordinated and arbitrary operations and bring "night raid operations" under its control.

"The president emphasized that special operations and night raids must be independently conducted only by Afghan troops," a statement released by his office on Sunday said.

The spokesman of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Monday said ISAF fully supports President Karzai's intent to have Afghan forces increasingly in the lead for operations.

"We are working together to move from always having Afghan force participation, as we do now, to operations being Afghan-led. " ISAF spokesman Brigadier-General Josef Blotz told reporters in a weekly press conference on Monday.

"We know we would not have seen the gains and progress made to date without the conduct of targeted, intelligence-driven night operations," Blotz said, emphasizing "night raid operations were very necessary element of ongoing counter-insurgency camping against Taliban insurgents."

A total of 12 people had been killed and over 60 injured when a demonstration to condemn a night operation in the country's north Takhar province turned violent on May 18.

The angry protesters alleged the four people including two women who were killed during night raid attack conducted by foreign forces on May 17 were civilians, however, ISAF said the operations was jointly conduced and all killed people were armed insurgents.

Presently more than 140,000 NATO, with nearly 100,000 of them Americans have been stationed in the country curbing Taliban-led insurgency in its 10th year.

Source: Xinhua
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