x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

US military denies killing 47 civilians

A US air strike in Afghanistan killed 47 civilians travelling to a wedding, according to investigators.

US Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, patrol in the town of Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan, on July 11, 2008. Some 2,200 US Marines, who have been deployed since late April, moved into the town of Garmser to clean the area of insurgents.
US Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, patrol in the town of Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan, on July 11, 2008. Some 2,200 US Marines, who have been deployed since late April, moved into the town of Garmser to clean the area of insurgents.

KABUL // A US military air strike this week killed 47 civilians travelling to a wedding, the head of a government commission investigating the incident said today. The air strike on Sunday, in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province, also wounded nine other civilians, said Burhanullah Shinwari, the deputy chairman of the Senate, who led the delegation. The nine-man commission was dispatched by President Hamid Karzai to investigate the incident on Tuesday. They returned to Kabul on Thursday. The commission included officials from the Ministry of Defence, the country's intelligence agency and parliament. Mr Shinwari said the group gathered information from witnesses and victims' relatives. The US military on Sunday denied that any civilians were killed in the incident. At the time Afghan officials said 27 civilians had been killed. On Friday, US coalition spokesman 1st Lt Nathan Perry said: "Any loss of innocent life is tragic. I assure you that civilians are never targeted, and that our forces go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

"This incident regarding the air strike on July 6 is still under investigation by coalition forces." Mr Shinwari said that 39 of those killed in the air strike were women and children, including the bride. He said the group was targeted twice on Sunday as they walked along with the bride from her village toward the groom's house in another village.

All those killed in the incident were buried in one cemetery near the village where the attack happened, Mr Shinwari said. "They were all civilians, with no links to al Qa'eda or the Taliban," he said. The members of the commission gave relatives US$2,000 (Dh7346) for every person killed and $1,000 for those wounded, he said. The issue of civilian casualties has caused friction between the Afghan government and US and Nato troops, and has weakened the standing of the Western-backed Karzai in the eyes of the population.

More than 2,100 people - mostly militants - have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year. More than 8,000 people died in attacks last year, according to the UN, the most since the 2001 US-led invasion. * AP