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Afghan, NATO probe confirms eight civilians killed

The NATO-led force and Afghan authorities said on Monday a joint investigation had concluded that eight civilians were killed during a recent battle with insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2009 12:16 IST

The NATO-led force and Afghan authorities said on Monday a joint investigation had concluded that eight civilians were killed during a recent battle with insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

Seventeen other civilians were wounded in the February 23 incident in the Sangin district of Helmand, said a joint statement issued by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the provincial government.

"On February 23, in Gul Agha Sheli village, they (insurgents) ambushed an ISAF patrol, which defended itself as the attack continued for a few hours.

"Regretfully, as a result of this engagement, eight people were killed and 17 people were injured," the statement said.

"There were also casualties inflicted on the enemy," it added.

The provincial government in Helmand has requested "financial help and assistance" for the victims and ISAF has accepted, the statement said.

Civilian casualties are a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan where about 70,000 foreign troops are deployed in order to help the Western-backed government in Kabul fight an increasingly bloody insurgency.

The deaths of civilians during foreign military operations are a major cause of friction between Washington and the US-backed administration in Kabul.

On February 21, the US-led coalition in Afghanistan confirmed that 13 civilians were killed in an air strike in the western province of Herat.

The Taliban, a hardcore Islamist movement that was in power between 1996 and 2001, are trying to topple the Kabul government through an insurgency which last year was at its deadliest since the US-led invasion in late 2001.