US forces in Afghanistan say a first probe indicates that a US airstrike near Kunduz this week probably claimed civilian lives. Some 30 civilians were killed and dozens wounded.
The top US general in Afghanistan on Saturday said he deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives after a first investigation into Thursday's airstrike on Taliban militants in the north of the country showed that civilians had probably died along with the targeted rebels.
"An initial investigation has determined that efforts near Kunduz on November 3 to defend Afghan National Defense and Security Forces likely resulted in civilian casualties," General John Nicholson said in a statement.
"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 raid on the village of Boz Kandahari, just outside the city of Kunduz, targeted a meeting involving three Taliban leaders who officials said were planning attacks in the city.
Children among the dead
Afghan officials said 33 civilians, including 17 children, appeared to have been killed in the airstrike, while a further 26 civilians were wounded. Relatives of the victims protested outside the provincial governor's office following the attack.
US air support was summoned after Afghan special forces encountered heavy fire from Taliban militants, with three special forces members and two US advisers meeting their deaths in the fighting.
Tailban commanders Mullah Taqi and Ahmadyr were among 30 Taliban commanders killed.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri blamed the Taliban for the civilian deaths, given that the meeting targeted was being held in a private home.
"Taliban have no regard or mercy for their own families," Waziri said, adding that "if there are civilian casualties, it's an achievement for them because they can say the government killed civilians."
tj/ (Reuters, dpa)