The United Nations called on NATO to investigate thoroughly a bombing that killed dozens of people in Afghanistan on Friday and said it was dispatching its own investigation team.
“I am very concerned by the reports we have seen this morning of casualties among civilians from an air strike against stolen trucks in Aliabad district of Kunduz province,” said deputy UN envoy in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith.
“As an immediate priority, everything possible must be done to ensure that people wounded by this attack are being properly cared for and that families of the deceased are getting all the help they need,” he said.
The United Nations has in the past called on foreign militaries operating in Afghanistan to put the welfare of civilians first in the planning and implementation of operations against Taliban militants.
“Steps must also be taken to examine what happened and why an air strike was employed in circumstances where it was hard to determine with certainty that civilians were not present,” said Galbraith.
“UNAMA (the UN mission in Afghanistan) is sending a team to look into the situation,” he added.
A NATO air strike destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, igniting a fireball that an Afghan official said killed about 90 people -- mostly insurgents.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was investigating reports of civilian casualties but the German army in a statement put the death toll at 56, and said it was “fairly certain” no non-combatants were killed.
Civilian casualties during Western military operations in Afghanistan are hugely sensitive and a major source of tension with the government of President Hamid Karzai, who is ahead in the vote count after fraud-tainted elections.
The UN says nearly two-thirds of 828 civilians allegedly killed by pro-government forces in Afghanistan’s conflict last year died in air strikes.