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NATO airstrike against Taliban fighters kills civilians in Afghanistan

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, right, speaks at a news conference Saturday with his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, in Kabul. Germany has endorsed sending up to 300 personnel to man surveillance planes in Afghanistan.

Associated Press

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, right, speaks at a news conference Saturday with his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, in Kabul. Germany has endorsed sending up to 300 personnel to man surveillance planes in Afghanistan.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike on two vehicles believed to be carrying Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan accidentally killed and wounded an unspecified number of civilians, coalition forces said Saturday.

The international alliance said it was investigating the strike, which occurred on Friday in the Naw Zad district of Helmand province. The helicopter airstrike followed intelligence reports that suggested a Taliban leader and his associates were in the vehicles, NATO said.

In the aftermath of the strike, coalition troops found bodies of civilians in the wreckage, NATO said. It did not release the number of dead and wounded.

The deaths came only two days after the international coalition accidentally killed two civilians in the eastern province of Khost. The two were walking near a car with suspected insurgents and were not seen until after a NATO helicopter gunship launched Wednesday's strike, NATO said.

A recent United Nations report said that at least 2,777 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Insurgency is blamed for about three-quarters of those deaths. However, Afghan leaders say the number of civilian deaths attributed to NATO is too high.

At least four other people were killed in three separate attacks in southern Afghanistan on Friday.

A child was killed in a bomb attack outside the home of a high-ranking Afghan border police officer in Kandahar province, the Afghan Interior Ministry said. The bomber was injured and is in critical condition, while four other people were wounded in the explosion, Afghan police said.

A coalition soldier died following an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, NATO announced. The death brings to 26 the number of NATO service members who have died this month in Afghanistan.

Also on Friday, two civilians riding on a motorcycle were killed by a roadside explosive in the southern province of Zabul.

Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices killed at least 1,141 Afghan civilians in 2010, the United Nations said.

Germany's Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere visited Afghanistan on Saturday, his first trip to the battleground since taking the job this month. German lawmakers Friday endorsed sending up to 300 crew members to man surveillance planes in Afghanistan — a move meant to take pressure off NATO allies enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.

De Maiziere and his Afghan counterpart, Abdul Rahim Wardak, discussed Kabul's announcement that Afghan security forces would take the lead in seven areas across the nation in July. Wardak said that as the process develops, "the role of the international forces will change to mentoring and supporting" Afghan troops, will gradually allow the "thinning out (of foreign forces) and then one day, I hope, their safe return home with full satisfaction of mission accomplished."

Deaths

As of Saturday, 1,407 U.S. troops have died in the war in Afghanistan. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

• Army Pfc. Rudy A. Acosta, 19, Canyon Country, Calif.; small-arms fire March 19; Kandahar province.

• Army Master Sgt. Jamal H. Bowers, 41, Raleigh, N.C.; noncombat-related incident March 18; Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.

• Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent A. Filpi, 41, Fort Walton Beach; noncombat-related incident Tuesday; Red Sea.

• Marine Staff Sgt. James M. Malachowski, 25, Westminster, Md.; combat March 20; Helmand province.

• Army Staff Sgt. Mecolus McDaniel, 33, Fort Hood, Texas; explosion and small-arms fire March 19; Khowst province.

• Army Cpl. Donald R. Mickler Jr., 29, Bucyrus, Ohio; small-arms fire March 19; Kandahar province.

NATO airstrike against Taliban fighters kills civilians in Afghanistan 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 10:24pm]

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