At least 45 civilians, many women and children, were killed in a rocket attack by the NATO-led foreign force in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province last week, a spokesman for the Afghan government said on Monday.
The incident happened in Helmand’s Sangin district on Friday when civilians crammed into a mud-built house to flee fighting between NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops and Taliban insurgents, Siyamak Herawi told Reuters.
Reports of civilian deaths and casualties caused by foreign troops are a major cause of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers and often lead to street demonstrations.
If confirmed, the Sangin incident would be among the worst of its kind during the war. At least 30 civilians were killed in a NATO air strike called in by German forces in northern Kunduz in September last year.
A spokesman for ISAF said the alliance had conducted an operation against insurgents in Sangin on Friday and was investigating the reports of civilian deaths.
“We have an assessment team there right now,” Major Michael Johnson told Reuters.
Civilians were also wounded in the attack, Mr, Herawi said after a separate investigation by the Afghan government was completed.
“The investigation shows that the rocket was fired by NATO and 45 civilians, many of them women and children, have been killed,” he said.