Karzai’s statement followed comments by Fazilullah Wahidi, provincial governor of Kunar province, alleging US-led NATO forces had killed up to 63 people, including women and children in airstrikes on suspected rebels.
Citing information from Afghanistan’s spy agency and local officials Karzai said “about 50 civilians have been martyred during international military forces operations in Ghaziabad district in Kunar province.”
Adding that he “strongly condemns” the deaths, Karzai pledged to send investigators to the remote district.
Wahidi earlier told AFP that most of the dead were civilians including 20 women, three elderly men and a number of children.
They were killed mostly in air raids by the ISAF against suspected rebels in Kunar province’s Ghaziabad district, a remote mountainous region at the feet of the Hindu Kush ranges, he added.
Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces are extremely sensitive in Afghanistan, where about 140,000 US-led foreign and Afghan troops are waging a counterinsurgency campaign to tackle a nearly 10-year Taliban-led insurgency.
NATO said Sunday that it would also investigate the allegations and confirmed an ongoing operation in the restive area, but said as many as 36 insurgents had been killed.
“We are conducting an immediate assessment of these allegations and will report our findings,” said US Army Colonel Patrick Hynes in a statement.
“ISAF reporting and weapons system video shows 36 insurgents, who were carrying weapons, were killed. This operation took place in a very remote valley in Kunar province, over very rugged terrain in the late night/early morning hours,” the statement added.
A human rights watchdog said earlier this month that 2010 was the deadliest year for ordinary Afghans since the US-led invasion of 2001, with more than 2,400 civilians killed.
A limited withdrawal of foreign forces is expected to start from more stable provinces of Afghanistan from July.
But in the latest major attack to strike the country, a Taliban assault on a bank in eastern Afghanistan killed 38 people and wounded more than 70 others, officials said Sunday. It was the deadliest attack since June last year.
Khaama Press (KP)