Nato admits air strikes killed Afghan children

Nato-led forces in Afghanistan said on Monday they found the bodies of children after a coalition air strike that has enraged the Afghan government, and said their deaths may have been linked to an anti-insurgent operation in the area.

The air strike took place last Wednesday near the village of Giawa, in eastern Kapisa province, and followed similar bombings that have stoked tension between the government and Nato over a civilian death toll that has risen annually for five years.

Nato aircraft and ground forces attacked insurgents on open ground in the Najrab district of Kapisa, said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for Nato’s 130,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“Following the engagement additional casualties were discovered and these casualties were young Afghans of varying ages,” Jacobson told reporters.

“At this point in our assessment we can neither confirm nor deny, with reasonable assurance, a direct link to the engagement. Nonetheless, any death of innocents not associated with armed conflict is a tragedy,” he said.

Eight killed

Afghan government officials showed gruesome photographs of eight dead boys, and said seven of them had been aged between six and 14, while one had been around 18 years old. They were bombed twice while herding sheep in heavy snow and lighting a fire to keep warm, they said.

“Where were the rights for these children who have been violated? Did they have rights or not? Did they have rights to live as part of the world community?” said Mohammad Tahir Safi, a member of parliament sent by President Hamid Karzai to investigate the air strike.

French soldiers in the area were denied permission to call in air support for an attack north of an area called Ahmad Bik hill, Safi said, citing Afghan security officials in Kapisa, northeast of Kabul.

Despite that, the air strike was launched, Safi said.

Jacobson said the anti-insurgent operation had been carried out according to Nato rules on air strikes, which have been tightened and reviewed under pressure from Karzai and the government.

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