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Coalition Responds to Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, April 16, 2006 – Coalition forces rushed three wounded civilians to emergency medical treatment and are working with Afghan officials to return the remains of the other civilians to their families after combat with insurgents in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan's Kunar province last night resulted in civilian casualties.

Initial reports from military officials indicate that seven civilians were killed and three were wounded near the fighting.

During a close-combat firefight between about eight to 10 enemy fighters and a coalition patrol, officials said, coalition forces used close-air support, artillery and direct fire to suppress fire from insurgents in a house and a cave. Several of the insurgents are believed to have been killed; the rest retreated. After the battle, coalition forces determined that civilians had been caught in the fight.

"Our hearts go out to the families of the innocent victims of this battle," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of the coalition's Combined Joint Task Force 76. "I've directed an investigation to determine the facts in this matter."

A written statement issued by Combined Forces Command Afghanistan officials emphasized that coalition forces go to great lengths to limit the chances of civilian casualties "through disciplined training, positive observation of enemy forces and precision fires"

"The unfortunate loss of civilian lives is a circumstance that coalition forces regret. As long as the enemy chooses to fight in or near civilians, however, the possibility of civilians being endangered will exist," the statement said.

"We sincerely and profoundly regret the loss of innocent life," said Army Col. John Nicholson, commander of the Coalition's Task Force Spartan, which is conducting offensive operations in Kunar province.

"Among the most reprehensible aspects of these terrorist activities is the risk to which they expose innocent civilians," Nicholson said. "The terrorists, often deliberately, operate in close proximity to civilians, exposing them to grave risk during combat. Terrorism inflicts two injuries on innocent people: it specifically targets them in some cases, and exposes them to extreme peril when others confront them."

Afghan and coalition forces are continuing offensive operations in eastern Afghanistan to defeat terrorism and establish stability in the region, officials said.

(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)

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