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Afghan villagers gather by a house destroyed in the NATO airstrike last week. AP Photo/Ihsanullah Majroh, PA File

NATO to limit airstrikes on Afghan homes

A spokesperson for the military alliance says that airstrikes will not be used on civilian dwellings unless it’s a matter of ‘self-defence for troops on the ground’.

NATO SAYS IT will limit airstrikes on Afghan houses to incidents of troop self-defence.

The statement follows last week’s airstrike which killed women, children and village elders in Logar province. Afghan officials say that 18 civilians were killed.

President Hamid Karzai has criticised NATO and US forces for failing to consult with Afghan officials before striking a house where insurgents had taken cover. Marine General John Allen, commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, flew to Logar province on Friday to personally apologise for the deaths, which occurred during a pre-dawn raid to capture a Taliban operative.

The UN last week voiced concerns over the level of casualties caused by airstrikes, saying that aerial operations have caused more civilian deaths and injuries than any other tactice used by pro-Afghan government forced to date in the conflict.

In a statement, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called on “all parties to the conflict to increase their efforts to protect civilians, and to comply fully with their legally binding international responsibility to minimize civilian loss of life and injury”. The UNAMA also called on pro-government forces “to further review procedures and directives aimed at preventing all harm to civilians” during military operations.

A spokesperson for the military alliance said today that although troops will continue to carry out combat operations against insurgents who use civilian dwellings, aistrikes will not be used “unless it is a question of self-defence for our troops on the ground,” the AP quotes.

Meanwhile, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has confirmed that two Afghan civilians were wounded in crossfire between insurgents and coalition forces in the Helmand province yesterday.

The ISAF said that the two men suffered gunshot wounds and fragmentation wounds and were taken to a coalition medical facility for treatment.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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