KABUL: At least 10 civilians were killed in a Nato strike on a pick-up truck carrying women and children in eastern Afghanistan, provincial officials said yesterday.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) denied that civilians had been killed, saying 10 enemy forces had died in the strike.
“We can confirm that we undertook a precision strike in Watarpur district of Kunar, and are able to confirm 10 enemy forces killed,” a spokeswoman for the ISAF, First Lieutenant AnnMarie Annicelli, said in a statement.
“At this time, we have no reports of any civilian casualties in regard to this incident,” the statement added.
ISAF said it was aware of the allegations and was looking into the incident.
Kunar Police chief Abdul Habib Sayedkhil said the strike hit a pickup truck carrying the women and children as well as four armed insurgents.
“At least four women, four children and two civilian drivers were killed.”
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack.
“Hamid Karzai considers attacking women and children against all accepted international norms and strongly condemns it,” his office said in a statement.
It said that according to information from Kunar Provincial Governor Shujaul Mulk Jalala, a vehicle “was targeted by a Nato strike that killed 16 civilians including women and children”.
Earlier the governor had said the dead included militants.
“Four armed insurgents belonging to Al Qaeda were also killed,” the governor added.
Civilian deaths have been a long-running source of friction between Karzai and his international backers.
Karzai has forbidden Afghan troops from calling for foreign air strikes, though that ban is not always adhered to, and Nato advises crews not to fire at or bomb populated areas.
In February, Karzai ordered a ban on Nato strikes in the country after an attack killed 10 civilians in Kunar.
The US-led Nato troops are winding down operations as they prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.
Watarpur is a rural district in the north of Kunar, a mountainous province that shares a long and porous border with lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.
The province has long been considered a transit hub for foreign insurgents, including Al Qaeda members, who fight alongside the Taliban.
The strike occurred about 5pm on Saturday, Jalala said.
The governor said at least eight civilians, including three women, four children and the truck’s driver, had been caught up in an air strike targeting Taliban fighters.
Jalala added that the truck was hit after the driver gave the Taliban fighters a lift.
As Nato troops wind down operations and Afghan forces take charge of security responsibility countrywide, violence has been on the increase.
Nearly 1,000 civilians were killed and around 2,000 others injured in the first half of 2013, according to a UN report, a 23 percent increase from the same period last year.