Afghan probe accuses NATO of killing 65 civilians

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Kabul, Feb 27 (AFP) Afghanistan''s government saidtoday that its investigations have found NATO killed 65civilians, many of them children, during recent operations ina remote northeastern militant stronghold.

The death toll from several days of operations inKunar province comprised 21 boys, 19 girls, 10 women and 15adult males, President Hamid Karzai''s office said in astatement quoting an official delegation.

Karzai has now ordered his security chiefs to"discuss the issue" with international forces, his officesaid, without providing further details.

In response, a spokesman for the NATO-ledInternational Security Assistance Force (ISAF), LieutenantColonel John Dorrian, said it was "deeply sorry... for anycivilian casualties that have occurred as part of thisoperation."

But he disputed the death toll, saying ISAF''sassessment only found five to seven civilians "may haveinjured." Investigations were continuing, he added.

Karzai appointed the delegation last week after hefirst accused international forces of killing civilians in anoperation targeting insurgents -- a highly sensitive issue inAfghanistan.

Karzai says such incidents erode support for hisWestern-backed administration.

There are about 140,000 foreign troops, the bulk ofthem American, deployed in Afghanistan to help Kabul defeatthe Taliban, but civilian casualties have exacerbatedlongstanding tensions between the government and its Westernallies.

On Thursday, NATO also said it was investigatingallegations that fire from one of its planes killed fivecivilians in Kapisa province, north-east of Kabul.

Local villagers had alleged the men were civilianshunting in the mountains of Alasai district when they wereattacked by NATO planes, provincial police chief Abdul HamidArkin told AFP. (AFP)

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