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Image: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Murray Brewster

NATO commander apologises for fatal attack on Afghan children

Nine children, aged between 7 and 12, were killed accidentally by NATO forces in Afghanistan as they gathered firewood yesterday.
Mar 2nd 2011, 9:30 PM 510 0

NATO’S TOP COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN has apologised for the accidental killing of nine boys in the Kunar province yesterday.

A local development council member said that four of the boys were 7 years old, three were 8, one was 9 and one was 12.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the deaths, saying the boys were innocent children “collecting firewood for their families during this cold winter”.

NATO said it appeared there was some miscommunication between coalition helicopters regarding the location of militants. Commander General David Petraeus said: “These deaths should never have happened and I will personally apologise to President Karzai”.

Petraeus said he had recently directed his commanders to review directions aimed at keeping civilians casualties to an “absolute minimum”, and he has now ordered all NATO coalition helicopter crews to be re-briefed on that directive.

He said he wanted to emphasise the need to “protect the lives of innocent Afghans as we pursue a ruthless enemy”.

The UN recently said it had recorded 2,412 conflict-related deaths in the first ten months of last year in Afghanistan. More than three-quarters of those were caused by militant activity – a 25 per cent increase on the same period in 2009.

- Includes reporting from the AP

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Susan Ryan

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