KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — A NATO airstrike in Afghanistan Friday destroyed a fuel tanker hijacked by Taliban insurgents, causing dozens of casualties including civilians, officials and witnesses said.
The police chief for the area in northern Kunduz province said more than 60 people were killed and wounded. An Afghan government spokesman said at least one person was killed, as accounts emerged of horrific injuries.
"Last night, the Taliban tried to take a fuel tanker that they hijacked on the highway to Angorbagh village," said Baryalai Basharyar Parwani, the police chief of the Ali Abad district in Kunduz.
"The fuel tanker got stuck in the river. There were local civilians with them as well. The Taliban were bombed (Friday). More than 60 people have been killed and injured," he said.
A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under NATO told AFP: "It was an ISAF airstrike."
Wounded people with extensive burns crowded a hospital in Kunduz, the capital of the northern province which lies on a main supply line for the more than 100,000 foreign troops based in Afghanistan, an AFP reporter said.
Around eight were in terrible condition -- the skin burnt black and peeling off to expose raw red muscle. Others were so badly wounded, they were incapable of crying, with their badly burnt clothes stuck to their flesh.
Hospital authorities could not provide an immediate number of the wounded as more patients kept arriving, crowding the recovery rooms and corridors.
Around 200 to 250 villagers were believed to have gathered to take free fuel from the tankers which had been hijacked by the insurgents, said health ministry spokesman Farid Rahid in Kabul.
"Unfortunately a big number of civilians were killed and wounded. The provincial health director can confirm that 12 wounded and one dead person were admitted to the provincial hospital," he told AFP.
Mohammad Daud, 32, told AFP at the hospital that Taliban insurgents hijacked two fuel tankers on the highway destined for foreign troops and were trying to transport them across a river to villages in Angorbagh.
"They managed to take one of the tankers over the river. The second got stuck so they told villagers to come and take the diesel," Daud said.
"Villagers rushed to the fuel tanker with any available container that they had, including water buckets and pots for cooking oil.
"There were 10 to 15 Taliban on top of the tanker. This was when they were bombed. Everyone around the fuel tanker died.
"Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt."
The incident came four days after the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan submitted a review into the nearly eight-year war, calling for a revised strategy to defeat the Taliban and reverse the country's "serious" situation.
General Stanley McChrystal has ordered the 100,000-plus Western troops under his command to change their mindset in a new set of guidelines designed to win the fight against an insurgency that is now at its deadliest.
McChrystal's predecessor, General David McKiernan, was removed after less than a year on the job after deeply controversial airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in western Afghanistan.
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