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NATO to probe Afghan civilian death claims

17 july 2011, 17:37
NATO said Friday it would investigate Afghan claims that six civilians were killed during a military operation targeting the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, AFP reports.

Provincial government officials said the six, one of them an 11-year-old girl, died during an operation on Thursday in the eastern province of Khost.

NATO had said that only one civilian was wounded, but after President Hamid Karzai ordered Afghan officials to conduct an investigation, the force said overnight it would look again at the operation.

"Coalition forces take every allegation of civilian casualties seriously and will conduct a complete assessment of the engagement," NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

Civilian casualties are an inflammatory issue between US-led foreign forces and Karzai, who last month issued a "last warning" to the military to avoid "arbitrary and unnecessary" operations that kill civilians.

Afghans demonstrated against the deaths after bodies were carried through Khost city, where the provincial council announced it was going on strike.

Khost provincial spokesman Mubarez Zadar said a teacher, a student, an 11-year-old girl and three other civilians died.

"The coalition forces were given the wrong information and based on wrong information, they carried out an operation," he said.

On Thursday, the United Nations said the number of civilians killed in the Afghan war in the first half of 2011 was up 15 percent, putting the year on track to be the deadliest in a decade.

The UN mission in Afghanistan said insurgents accounted for 80 percent of civilian deaths in the past six months and NATO troops 14 percent of killings.

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