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Afghan President Says NATO Ties Strained Over Civilian Killings

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said relations with international forces backing his government have been frayed because of the killing of more than 90 civilians during a recent strike by US-led coalition troops.

A helicopter in Afghanistan

Karzai has promised swift punishment for those responsible for the air strike

Karzai made the remarks Thursday, Sept. 4, during a visit to a village where more than 90 civilians were reported killed in a US air raid on Aug. 22.

He traveled to Azizabad village in Shindand district in the western province of Herat on Thursday and met families of the victims who were killed in a US-led coalition air raid, the presidential palace said in a statement.

The US military insisted that its operation, which was jointly conducted with Afghan commandos in the area, left 30 to 35 militants and up to seven civilians dead.

But an investigation team created by the Afghan government found that more than 90 civilians, including 60 children, were killed in the eight-hour aerial bombardment. A separate probe by UN officials confirmed the Afghan government's figures.

Karzai vows perpetrators will be punished

"After the bombardments, in which 90 civilian were killed, our relations have been strained with the foreigners," Karzai said in the statement. "It has been five years that I have been working days and nights to avoid such incidents, but we have not been successful, if we were successful, today the sons of Azizabad would not be drowned in their blood."

Aghan President Hamid Karzai

Karzai wants the US-led coalition to do more to prevent civilian deaths

The president assured the villagers that the "perpetrators of the incident will be brought to justice and will be punished."

Karzai talked to US President George W. Bush by videoconference on Wednesday this week and Bush expressed his sorrow and sympathy over the Shindand incident, a separate presidential palace statement said.

"During this conversation, both presidents discussed ways of preventing civilian casualties," the statement said.

The Shindand incident angered the Afghan public and prompted Karzai to fire two Afghan army commanders in the western region while his cabinet ordered a review of the status of foreign forces in the country.

Following the contradictory findings by the Afghan and US military officials, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, who commands the 53,000-strong NATO-led force in the country, suggested a joint probe into the incident.

The joint investigation, which was also approved by the Afghan government, would be conducted by the US military, the UN and Afghan government officials.

Karzai did not mention the recent deaths of three Afghan civilians killed by German Army troops stationed in northern Afghanistan.

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