x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Air strike mistake kills Afghans

Afghan Defence Ministry says soldiers were killed in a mistaken air strike in the south-east of the country.

KHOST // Foreign troops killed nine Afghan soldiers in a mistaken air strike in the south-east of the country overnight, the Afghan Defence Ministry said today. Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in air strikes by international troops in Afghanistan this year, Afghan officials say, feeding a perception that NATO-led and US coalition forces do not take enough care when calling in air support.

But it is still rare for foreign troops to hit their allies in the Afghan security forces. The Afghan government condemned the killings saying morale was being sapped by such incidents. "The national defence ministry condemns the incident in the strongest terms," it said in a statement. "We promise the people of Afghanistan and the army to seriously pursue the incident, so the culprits are brought to justice and are tried under laws in place," the statement added. It said such incidents harmed morale among the war-torn nation's security forces which are fighting an increasingly bloody insurgency led by the Taliban. Helicopter gunships pounded an Afghan army post on a road in Dowa Manda district of Khost province, a Taliban stronghold, district chief Lutfullah Babakarkheil said. Eight soldiers were killed and four wounded, he said. The Afghan Defence Ministry in Kabul put the number of troops killed at nine. "Nine have been martyred, three wounded, one critically in the attack by international forces," said ministry spokesman Zaher Azimi, who declined to give further details.

The vast majority of foreign troops in Khost are American. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was looking into the report. Violence in Afghanistan has reached its worst level this year since US-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 for refusing to surrender al Qa'eda leaders behind the September 11 attacks on the United States. *Reuters / AFP