Nato accused over Afghan deaths

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6255199.stm

Jan 15, 2007

At least 13 civilians were killed in a Nato air strike on Taleban militants on Thursday in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, police said.

Up to 16 Taleban fighters also died in the attack in the Garmser district.

But Nato officials said there was no evidence of any civilian casualties and that their intelligence suggested all those killed were rebels.

The strike came just hours after Nato said they killed as many as 150 Taleban in a battle near the Pakistan border.

When the strike took place, Taleban militants were holding civilians captive in a compound in the remote southern-most district, the provincial police chief told AFP news agency.

The wounded included women and children, Mohammad Nabi Mullahkhail told AFP.

'Carelessness'

The compound "was considered to be one of the main headquarters for Taleban forces in the south of the province" and between 60 and 100 fighters were inside at the time of the strike, a British statement said.

The first of two compounds was targeted by snipers before the building was attacked from the air and destroyed. A second building was also destroyed by an air attack, it said.

"Both aerial attacks were direct hits and first reports suggest there was no collateral damage to other buildings or civilians," the statement read.

A spokeswoman for the 32,000-strong Nato force said different reports of the attack were being checked.

The death of civilians has been a major issue in Afghanistan, with Nato saying last week that its biggest mistake of the past year has been killing innocent people.

The alliance has been accused - including by President Hamid Karzai - of carelessness over civilian lives when attacking Taleban fighters.