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NATO accepts blame for killing 6 civilians

world Updated: Jul 10, 2010 08:57 IST

AP
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NATO took the blame for accidentally killing six civilians and wounding several others in eastern Afghanistan - just a day after five Afghan soldiers died in a botched coalition airstrike.

The back-to-back incidents come as international troops are trying to gain the trust of the Afghan people and improve coordination with Afghan security forces in hopes of handing over more responsibility for security to them nearly nine years into the war.

NATO said on Friday an assessment team, comprising both coalition and Afghan forces, determined the civilians were killed when artillery fire fell short of its target on Thursday in Jani Khel district of Paktia province. A full investigation was under way.

Afghan and NATO leaders have had meetings with local elders and community leaders in Jani Khel to discuss the incident. NATO officials "offer sincere condolences to those affected and accept full responsibility for the actions that led to this tragic incident," the coalition said in a statement.

Five Afghan soldiers were killed and two others were wounded on Wednesday in an airstrike in the Andar district of Ghazni province. The Afghan soldiers were launching an ambush before dawn against insurgents reportedly on the move when NATO aircraft began firing on them without warning, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.

The international force in Afghanistan blamed the friendly fire attack on a communication error. A coalition statement, also issued on Friday, said a joint investigation determined the Afghan army unit gave the wrong location to international forces when it reported it would be operating in Ghazni.

Separately, two NATO service members, including one American, died on Friday in two different roadside bomb attacks in the south. President Barack Obama has sent 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Last month was the most deadly of the entire war for international troops, with 103 foreign forces killed. A suicide car bomb hit a NATO convoy on Friday in the eastern province of Nangarhar, provincial spokesman Ahmad Zaiya Abdulzai said. One civilian died and nine were wounded in the attack near a bridge outside Jalalabad, the provincial capital. Photos from the scene showed a coalition armored vehicle in flames, but NATO said no casualties among its troops were reported.

A coalition spokeswoman said she had been told the convoy hit a homemade bomb. In Ghazni province in the east, gunmen assassinated a prosecutor on Friday morning. The coalition said that Khwajai Omari district prosecutor Mohammad Riza was killed outside his home, the latest targeted killing of Afghan officials, apparently by insurgents seeking to sow fear and undermine confidence in President Hamid Karzai's government.