10 Jul 2010

NATO troops kill Afghan civilians

11:35 pm on 10 July 2010

Foreign troops in Afghanistan killed six civilians and wounded several others with stray artillery fire just a day after a NATO airstrike accidently killed five Afghan government soldiers.

A joint Afghan and NATO investigation team found the civilians died on Friday when artillery fire failed to hit an intended target in the Jani Khel district of Paktia Province.

The country's Interior Ministry initially blamed the deaths on a rocket fired by insurgents hitting a local bazaar, the BBC reports.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said its commanders had held two days of meetings with local elders in Jani Khel to discuss the incident.

Civilian casualties and friendly fire deaths among Afghan security forces have been a frequent cause of tension between President Hamid Karzai and Western military forces during the nine-year war.

New United States and NATO forces commander General David Petraeus is considering changing the rules of engagement drawn up by his predecessor to avoid civilian casualties, following complaints they increase the danger for coalition troops combating insurgents.

Casualties among NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan hit a record high in June and commanders expect violence to rise in parallel with an anti-insurgent offensive in coming months.