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NATO Investigates Air Strike in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2009 – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has launched an investigation into a coalition air strike that reportedly killed civilians yesterday, military officials reported.

NATO officials still are working to ascertain the facts in the incident, which occurred in Regional Command North’s area of operations in Kunduz province, according to an ISAF news release.

What is known is that ISAF soldiers reported that insurgents had hijacked two fuel trucks in Kunduz yesterday. The troops located the trucks on the banks of the Kunduz River when the vehicles became stuck in the mud.

The troops observed insurgent activity around the vehicles, and did not believe civilians were in the area. The NATO commander in the area called for an air strike, and American F-15s responded.

“A large number of insurgents are believed to have been killed or injured, and the fuel trucks were destroyed in the attack,” the release said.

Afghan officials put the death toll at 90, 60 of them being insurgents. Afghan provincial and national officials are working with ISAF investigators, NATO officials said.

“While the air strike was clearly directed at the insurgents, ISAF will do whatever is necessary to help the community including medical assistance and evacuation as requested,” Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, an ISAF spokesperson, said. “ISAF regrets any unnecessary loss of human life and is deeply concerned for the suffering that this action may have caused to our Afghan friends.”

Civilian deaths are a flashpoint in Afghanistan, and the commander of American and NATO troops, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has stressed the importance of minimizing civilian casualties.

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