Ire as Nato air strike kills 14 civilians

A US Marine base came under fire from insurgents in Taliban stronghold of Helmand on Saturday, the Helmand governor said in a statement, leading the base to call for help from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“ISAF’s air strike took place on two civilian houses. Unfortunately 14 innocent civilians were killed and six civilians wounded,” the Helmand governor’s statement said.
It said seven boys, five girls and two women were among the dead. Three children were among the six wounded, it said.

An ISAF spokesman in Kabul said: “We are aware of the reports that alleged civilians were killed in Helmand.” He said an assessment team had been sent to the area and would issue its findings shortly.

The mistaken killing of civilians by foreign troops, usually during air strikes or “night raids,” is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and complicates efforts to win support from ordinary Afghans for an increasingly unpopular war.

On Saturday, Karzai ordered the Defence Ministry to take control of so-called “night raids,” saying Afghan troops should be carrying out the sensitive operations themselves.

Afghans say the raids on houses suspected of harbouring insurgents often lead to civilian casualties. Bereaved relatives cradled the bodies of young children on Sunday, who were wrapped in bloody sheets and placed side to side, and brought them in the back of a truck to Lashkar Gah.

Top police deaths shock Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the deaths of his two senior police generals in a Taliban attack “a great loss” and cut short his trip to Turkmenistan.

General Mohammed Daoud Daoud, the police commander for nine Afghan northern provinces, and the provincial police chief of Takhar were killed in a suicide bomb attack on Saturday.

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