KABUL, Afghanistan — Both Taliban insurgents and the U.S. military were to blame for an airstrike a week ago that killed 17 people, including a dozen children, during a fierce battle in eastern Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said Saturday.
Karzai made his comments after an Afghan investigation into the April 6 attack raised the civilian death toll from 11 to 17. Killed were 12 children, four women and one man. An American civilian adviser was also killed during the fighting.
The Afghan report says the U.S. strike occurred after the Afghan intelligence service came under attack by militants during an operation to arrest two insurgent commanders in the Shigal district of Kunar province. The area is a major infiltration route for insurgents from sanctuaries in northwestern Pakistan to Afghanistan.
The U.S.-led coalition has confirmed that it launched airstrikes in Kunar province that day but it has not confirmed civilian casualties, saying the investigation is ongoing.
Afghan forces came under fire with heavy and light weapons as they were about to leave the area. It was in that fighting that the American was killed, causing the Americans to call for air support to move the body from the area at the same time houses believed to be containing suspected insurgents were bombarded for hours from the air, according to the report.
It said most of the houses were made of wood and mud and collapsed under the shock of the airstrikes, causing the deaths.
The death of Afghan civilians caught in crossfire has been a major point of contention between international forces and the Afghan government. Earlier this year, Karzai banned his troops from requesting coalition airstrikes following another deadly airstrike in Kunar.