NATO, Afghan forces kill 64 civilians – Kunar governor

Joint operations by Afghan forces and NATO-led foreign troops have killed 64 civilians in eastern Kunar province, including many women and children, over the past four days, the provincial governor said.

“They were killed by ground and air strikes in Ghazi Abad district,” Fazlullah Wahidi, governor of Kunar province, told Reuters on Sunday.

Wahidi said 20 of the dead were women, 29 were children or young adults aged 7 to 20, and the remaining 15 were adult men.

Civilian casualties in NATO-led military operations, often caused by air strikes and night raids, have long been a source of friction between the Afghan government and its Western partners.

Rules governing air strikes and night raids have been tightened significantly by NATO-led forces in the past two years, leading to a sharp drop in civilian casualties caused by such incidents.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said they were investigating media reports 7 civilians may have been wounded in operations in Kunar but were not aware of any reports of civilian deaths.

ISAF said on Friday that more than 30 insurgents had been killed in an overnight mission in Kunar, and on Saturday that operations had been going on in Ghazi Abad since February 16.

Another ISAF statement on Sunday said ISAF had engaged an “unknown number of insurgents” in two separate operations and attacked with small-arms fire and air strikes. Both statements said initial reports indicated no civilian casualties.