A joint Afghan-NATO force killed several insurgents during a raid on a compound where troops found three dead women, NATO said on Friday. Family members accused U.S. soldiers of killing five innocent civilians.
Afghan officials in Paktia province confirmed on Friday that they are investigating the deaths of five people in a home near the provincial capital of Gardez.
Police Chief Gen. Azizudin Wardak said two men and three women were killed on Thursday night during a party. One of the men worked for the police and another worked for the attorney general’s office, he said.
“Who killed them? We still don’t know,” he said, adding the investigation is under way.
Civilian deaths during military operations are a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, and U.S. commanders have issued strict orders to limit the use of force when civilians are at risk. President Hamid Karzai, has also called on NATO to stop night raids into private homes because they offend Afghan culture and help turn people away from the government and its allies.
In a statement, NATO forces said the raid took place on Thursday night in the Gardez district after the joint force received reports of militant activity at a compound near the village of Khatabeh.
“Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a fire fight and were killed,” the statement said, without saying how many had died. Then “a large number of men, women, and children” exited the compound and were detained by the joint force, it said.
The statement said joint forces then conducted a thorough search of the compound and made what it called a “gruesome discovery” - the hidden bodies of three women who had been bound, gagged and killed.
Eight men have been detained for questioning, NATO forces said, adding that a joint forensic investigation will be conducted.
However, relatives of the dead accused American forces of being responsible for the deaths of all five people when contacted by The Associated Press by phone.
A man who identified himself as Hamidullah said he had been in the home as some 20 people gathered to celebrate the birth of a son when a group of men he described as “U.S. special forces” surrounded the compound.
Saying he witnessed one man’s death, Hamidullah said, “Daoud was coming out of the house to ask what was going on. And then they shot him.”
Then they killed a second man, Hamidullah said. The rest of the group were forced out into the yard, made to kneel and had their hands bound behind their back, he said, breaking off crying without giving any further details.
A deputy provincial council member in Gardez, Shahyesta Jan Ahadi, said news of the operation has inflamed the local community that blames Americans.
“Last night, the Americans conducted an operation in a house and killed five innocent people, including three women. The people are so angry,” he said.
Mr. Ahadi said the operation had not included any Afghan forces, saying “The government didn’t know about this.”
“We strongly condemn this,” he said.