Kabul, Jan 12: The US military said on Thursday that 33 civilians were killed during a joint operation in northern Afghanistan last year, as it released details of its investigation into the incident. Twenty-seven other civilians were wounded in the village of Boz in Kunduz city during the operation to capture Taliban leaders who were plotting to seize the provincial capital of Kunduz, Khaama Press quoted Afghan and US military officials as saying.
During the incident on November 3, both forces carried out a ground assault against the Taliban when they came under fire from the armed group, prompting a call for air reinforcements.
"To defend themselves and Afghan forces, US forces returned fire in self-defence at Taliban who were using civilian houses as firing positions," the US military said.
"Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives," said General John Nicholson, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan.
Afghan special forces planned the raid against the Taliban hideout in Kunduz with the help of a small group of American military advisers. But the insurgents swiftly engaged them, opening fire from multiple civilian buildings, the US military explained in its investigation.
"US and Afghan forces were forced to request aerial fire support from US platforms in self-defence. Aerial fires were also used to suppress Taliban who were firing on US medical evacuation assets as the dead and wounded were evacuated," it said.
The statement further said that no action will be taken because it has been determined that US forces followed all applicable law and policy during the operation.
The fire exchange killed two US soldiers and three Afghan commandos while 26 Taliban militants, including their leader, were also killed and around 26 wounded, it added.
The US military also said that a Taliban ammunition cache was struck and exploded which also destroyed multiple civilian buildings and may also have killed civilians.