UN Investigating US Airstrike That Killed Dozens Of Civilians In Afghanistan
NEW DELHI: The United Nations has said that it will investigate a recent United States air strike called called in support of a special forces raid on suspected Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan in which at least 32 civilians were reportedly killed.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said at least 32 people had been killed and 19 wounded in the strikes in the village of Buz Kandahari near the war torn city of Kunduz. The vast majority of those killed and injured, the organisation says, were women and children.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of UNAMA, said that “the loss of civilian life is unacceptable and undermines efforts toward building peace and stability in Afghanistan.” "When conducting aerial operations, international military forces should take all feasible measures to minimise civilian harm, including full analysis of the context for aerial strikes," he said in a statement.
The statement came after the US military confirmed that it had carried out the strike and that civilians had been killed, and said it would investigate the incident. “ deeply regret the loss of innocent lives, regardless of the circumstances," Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
"The loss of innocent life is a tragedy and our thoughts are with the families. We will work with our Afghan partners to investigate and determine the facts and we will work with the government of Afghanistan to provide assistance," he added.
The latest strikes add to the growing number of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign forces, with UN data stating that 95 people were killed and 111 injured during the last seven days.
One of the worst such tragedies was when a US strike hit a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz in October 2015, killing 42 people. The events following the strike were equally tragic, as the US and Afghan forces put forth contradictory accounts with no group taking responsibility immediately after the strike. Months later, the US admitted that the strike was the result of a “human error” that could have been avoided. Gen. John Campbell said that the strike mistakenly targeted the MSF hospital facility, instead of a suspected nearby site, from which Taliban fighters were firing.
The explanation, however, still fell short, as MSF had said in the past that its coordinates were given to the US mission in Afghanistan, and that the strike continued even after MSF informed American and Afghan officials that its facility had been struck. Meanwhile, MSF demanded a clear explanation for the strike, claiming that the attack was deliberate. “The hospital was repeatedly hit both at the front and the rear and extensively destroyed and damaged, even though we have provided all the coordinates and all the right information to all the parties in the conflict," Christopher Stokes, general director MSF (Médicins Sans Frontiéres) told AP. "The extensive, quite precise destruction of this hospital ... doesn't indicate a mistake. The hospital was repeatedly hit," he pointed out.
MSF on its part hold the US military entirely responsible. “The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” said MSF Director General Christopher Stokes. MSF president Meinie Nicolai described the incident as "abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law.”