A top Afghan border police official Friday rejected U.S. military claims that 10 people who died in an American airstrike were militants, insisting they were police officers. Insurgents, meanwhile, killed a coalition soldier in an ambush.
The U.S. military said it was investigating Thursday’s coalition airstrike in southeastern Paktika province but believed it had struck insurgents fleeing the scene of an attack on U.S. and Afghan troops.
President Hamid Karzai, who depends on the U.S. military to back his weak government but has become increasingly outspoken over heavy-handed tactics by international forces, condemned the airstrike and called for an investigation.
The U.S. military said coalition aircraft had destroyed two trucks used in an insurgent attack Thursday that killed an Afghan soldier and damaged a coalition vehicle.
But Gen. Abdul Rahman, Afghanistan’s deputy chief of border police, on Friday stood by his claim that the airstrike killed 10 border police.
“The names of those who have been killed in this incident” prove that they worked for police, including a “very famous” commander, Mohammad Kabir, he said.
“What I am telling you is the truth. The coalition plane killed the border police,” Rahman said.
Afghan leader incensed
Karzai said Thursday he was “shocked and angered” by the airstrike.
“I have repeatedly asked the coalition forces to take maximum caution while carrying out operations and I want that incidents like this must not be repeated,” he said in a statement.
There have been repeated incidents in Afghanistan of civilians dying in coalition operations against Taliban fighters who often hide among civilian populations. In April, clashes between insurgents and U.S., Canadian and British troops in southern Afghanistan left 13 civilians dead.
In eastern Kunar province, meanwhile, militants attacked a coalition patrol, killing a coalition soldier and wounding another, a coalition statement said.
The nationalities of the soldiers were not disclosed. Most of the coalition troops in Kunar are American.
U.S. and NATO forces have stepped up operations along the eastern border with Pakistan and the volatile south to counter a surge in insurgent attacks blamed on al-Qaida, Taliban rebels and drug traffickers, among others.