KABUL, Afghanistan — Two boys out collecting firewood with their donkeys were killed by weapons fired from a NATO helicopter, Afghan and American military officials said Saturday.
The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., issued an apology and said the killings were an accident.
The victims, Toor Jan, 11, and Andul Wodood, 12, were brothers and had been walking behind their donkeys in the Shahed-e-Hasas district of Oruzgan province when the helicopter fired on them, according to Afghan officials in the district. The two donkeys were killed as well.
Dunford said coalition forces had opened fire on what they thought were insurgent forces, and killed the boys by accident.
The episode was the second airstrike to kill civilians since Dunford assumed command in February. In Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, up to 11 civilians were killed, including five children, when airstrikes were used to destroy two homes.
That attack, which included Afghan forces on the ground, led President Hamid Karzai to forbid Afghan units from asking for airstrikes by coalition air forces.