Khaama Press reports today that a group of investigators appointed by the Afghan government has confirmed that eleven children were killed on Saturday in a NATO air strike in Kunar Province. Although several press reports indicate that NATO has said that it is investigating the strike, I can find no word on the Defense Department or ISAF websites mentioning this strike. The absence of any report from NATO is puzzling, since their site provides near-daily accounts of actions under the heading of “Joint Command Operational Update”.
Here is how Khaama Press relates the confirmation of the deaths:
Head of the Afghan delegation appointed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to probe NATO airstrike in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan confirmed at least 11 children and 4 women were killed during raid.
The delegation also added that at least 25 people had suffered casualties during the air raid in this province.
The airstrike was carried out during a joint military operation conducted by Afghan and coalition security forces in Shegal district of eastern Kunar province three days.
The delegation met with the families of the victims after being appointed by president Hamid Karzai.
Two very important details about the strike come in the final paragraph:
At least 7 Taliban militants were also killed during the airstrike, the delegation confirmed adding that 4 residential houses were damaged during the airstrike.
The details that Taliban militants were killed and that more than one house was damaged are important because of the other information that has come out regarding the incident.
The day after the strike, the Washington Post carried an AP article about it. Near the end of the article, AP relayed information that came from a local official:
Afghan officials said the airstrike occurred after a joint U.S.-Afghan force faced hours of heavy gunfire from militants. The joint force was conducting an operation targeting a senior Taliban leader that began around midnight Friday in the Shultan area of Kunar’s Shigal district, according to tribal elder Gul Pasha, who also is the chief of the local council.
The remote area is one of the main points of entry for Taliban and other insurgents trying to move across the mountainous border from neighboring Pakistan, where they enjoy refuge in the lawless northwestern area.
“In the morning after sunrise, planes appeared in the sky and airstrikes started,” Pasha said in a telephone interview, adding that the fighting didn’t end until the evening.
“I don’t think that they knew that all these children and women were in the house because they were under attack from the house and they were shooting at the house,” he said.
There were slightly differing accounts of the death toll.
Pasha said the main Taliban suspect was in the house that was hit and was killed along with a woman and the children, ages 1 to 12, who were members of the suspect’s family.
So Pasha is claiming that the children all belonged to the main Taliban suspect and were in the same house where he was located. That is very interesting considering that in an article published April 8 that also mentioned this attack, Khaama Press featured a government condemnation of the use of civilians as human shields: Read more