NATO civilian killings take on massacre proportions

The Afghan government says that at least 27 civilians have been killed in a NATO air attack in Uruzgan province. NATO subsequently confirmed its aircraft bombed a suspected insurgent convoy, but ground forces later found a number of individuals killed and wounded, including women and children. And, in a separate inciden in the northeastern province of Kapisa, a French missile hit a car, killing at least two civilians, including a child.

The BBC correspondent Chris Morris in Kabul said the attacks in Uruzgan were not part of Operation Mushtarak in the Marjah area of the neighboring province of Helmand. Accounts from Uruzgan says three vehicles were targeted by helicopters. The provincial governor Sultan Ali told reporters that all the dead were civilians.

A NATO statement said it was thought the convoy of vehicles contained Taliban on their way to attack Afghan and foreign forces. According to an interior ministry spokesman in Kabul, 42 people were traveling in the convoy. All of them were civilians. And Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the US-led campaign in Afghanistan, later released a statement saying he was ‘extremely saddened’ at the civilian deaths.

In an ill-timed intervention on the same day, the head of the US Central Command Gen. David Petraeus told the American audience on the NBC program Meet the Press: “This is just the initial operation of what will be a 12 to 18-month campaign as General McChrystal and his team mapped it out.”

About 2000 Dutch troops are deployed in Uruzgan as part of the NATO contingent in Afghanistan. The Netherlands’ military mission has become such a divisive issue in the country’s domestic politics that the coalition government collapsed over the weekend. It looks increasingly likely that the Dutch troops will be withdrwan later this year.

Meanwhile, there have been new attacks on pro-government targets in Afghanistan and on the Pakistani side of the frontier. In Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, a suicide bomber killed 15 people, including a tribal chief, Mohammad Haji Zaman, who is said to have played an important role in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and war against al Qaeda and the Taliban around the Tora Bora cave complex in Safed Koh (White Mountains). Haji Zaman was a Mujahideen warlord in the 1990s and had been living in Peshawar, north-western Pakistan. He had returned to Afghanistan recently.

In Pakistan, an army convoy came under bomb attack in the Swat valley, where security forces carried out an operation against the militants last year. At least five people were killed and many others wounded in the today’s explosion.  

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