A NATO airstrike has killed at least 10 civilians including women and children in eastern Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday, as elsewhere a Taliban attack left at least four Afghan intelligence agents dead.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) denied that civilians had been killed, saying 10 enemy forces had died in the airstrike, but the incident threatened to inflame tensions.
Civilian casualties in NATO operations have long been a source of friction between the Afghan government and the U.S.-led NATO troops, who are winding down operations as they prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.
The strike took place on Saturday in Kunar province, hitting a pickup truck carrying women and children and killing all on board, the Kunar Police Chief told AFP.
“At least four women, four children and two civilian drivers were killed.”
Provincial Governor Shujaul Mulk Jalala told AFP that 12 civilians — four women, four children and four men — were killed.
“Four armed insurgents belonging to al-Qaeda were also killed,” he added.
ISAF said it was aware of the allegations and was looking into the incident.
“We can confirm Coalition Forces conducted a precision strike yesterday... resulting in 10 enemy forces killed,” it said in a statement. “At this time, we have no reports of any civilian casualties in regards to this incident.”
Ziarat Gul, a resident of Wattapur district where the attack occurred, described the strike as “brutal”.
“They should not have attacked the truck because of three or four insurgents, the lives of the civilians were more important and precious.”
Kunar, which borders Pakistan, is a stronghold of the Taliban-led insurgency and is also known to have a strong presence of foreign fighters.
A NATO air attack in the province in April left 11 children dead. — AFP