Afghans say 13 civilians killed in US-led strike
Added under Afghanistan/Pakistan
Afghan authorities said Wednesday that at least 13 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a US-led air strike on militants, prompting the military to order an inquiry.
The latest charges of civilian casualties from foreign operations follow tensions on the issue between Kabul and Washington, its main military backer in an escalating fight against a Taliban insurgency.
The strike outside the western city of Herat on Monday targeted a "key insurgent commander" named Gholam Yahya Akbari, the US military said.
"Killed in the attack were up to 15 militants suspected of associating with Yahya," it said.
However, provincial authorities said teams sent to the area to investigate found that civilians were killed.
"The information we have states that 13 civilians have been killed in that air strike -- six women, two children and five men," said provincial government spokesman Naqibullah Arwin.
The identities of three other men killed in the same attack were unclear, the spokesman said.
"Initial information indicates that two of the three bodies could also be civilians. Apparently they were two car mechanics taken there to fix a broken car which belonged to the armed opposition," Arwin said.
Ikramuddin Yawar, police chief for western Afghanistan, earlier confirmed the deaths of six women and two children whom he said were from a nomad tribe, and were killed close to their tents.
Three men killed in the strike were militants but the identities of five others was unclear, he said.
One among the group of three had a rifle, police said.
Locals said the two others, whose remains were recovered near two gutted vehicles, were car mechanics from Herat city who were taken to the outlying Gozara district to fix a broken jeep.
At an emotional funeral in the city, Khair Mohammad said they were his brother and his assistant, and vowed revenge on the US soldiers.
"He was a mechanic and was taken there by a person to fix his car. As he arrived, US planes hit the car and killed my brother and his assistant," he said.
The US military said a combined coalition and Afghan investigation team had visited the area with international observers to find out what had happened.
"We take all reports of non-combatant casualties very seriously and investigate these claims with the assistance of our Afghan forces counterparts," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rick Helmer said in a statement.
The United Nations said in a report Tuesday that 2,118 Afghan civilians were killed in insurgency-linked unrest in 2008 -- 55 percent by forces fighting the government and 39 percent by pro-government forces.
There are about 38,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan to fight the growing Taliban-led insurgency. US President Barack Obama has approved the deployment of 17,000 additional troops.
Elsewhere, the Afghan military said it killed 10 rebels in Herat's Shindand district overnight.
Karzai, who is seeking re-election later this year, visited Laghman province near Kabul to express condolences to families who lost relatives in a US-led strike in January, his office said.
The president told a crowd that new arrangements, in which the international forces agreed to involve Afghans more closely in the planning and execution of operations, should go some way towards preventing civilian casualties.