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Off-target Rockets Prompt Apology for Civilian Casualties

American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Feb. 14, 2010 – International forces in Afghanistan have suspended use of an artillery rocket system, pending a review of an incident today in which two rockets missed their target and killed 12 civilians in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, International Security Assistance Force commander, conveyed his apologies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the incident that occurred as Afghan and international forces continue an operation to clear a Taliban stronghold.

"We deeply regret this tragic loss of life," McChrystal said. "The current operation in central Helmand is aimed at restoring security and stability to this vital area of Afghanistan. It's regrettable that in the course of our joint efforts, innocent lives were lost. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and will ensure we do all we can to avoid future incidents."

Two rockets from a high-mobility artillery rocket system missed their intended target, killing 12 civilians in Helmand’s Nad Ali district. The rockets’ target was a compound where insurgents were delivering accurate, direct fire on a combined Afghan-ISAF team, officials said. An Afghan soldier and an ISAF servicemember had been injured by the insurgent fire.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

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