(AFP) – Nov 7, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — An Afghan investigation has found that 37 civilians were killed in US air strikes that hit a wedding party, along with 26 Taliban, the Kandahar provincial government said Friday.
President Hamid Karzai had said "around 40" civilians were killed in the strike in the province's Shah Wali Kot district on Monday that followed an ambush on international soldiers.
The Kandahar government sent a team of officials and police to Wacha Bakhta village to investigate the incident, the latest in a series that have caused friction between Kabul and its international allies.
"Our investigations show that 37 civilians and 26 Taliban were killed in the air strike and another 31 civilians and seven militants were wounded," the government said in a statement.
It was not clear how many were women and children, it said.
The militants had left 15 bodies at the scene and took the remainder and the wounded with them, the statement said.
The troops had been on patrol around the village, which is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kandahar, when they came under attack by militants, the investigation found, confirming a statement by the US military.
The forces responded with ground and air fire which also hit a wedding party, it said.
The US force in Afghanistan said earlier this week it could not confirm civilian casualties but was investigating.
Villagers said a wedding lunch had just ended and the bride was preparing to say farewell to her family when the fighting started, lasting for several hours until midnight.
The government has given 2,000 dollars to families for each person killed and 160 dollars for those wounded, the statement said.
Karzai also spoke by telephone Friday to the bereaved families and extended his condolences, his office said separately.
He made a similar telephone call to families in Gormach district of the northwestern province of Badghis where police said seven more civilians were killed in strikes again militants on Wednesday.
The allegations are being investigated.
International military forces in Afghanistan have been criticised for causing civilian casualties in military operations, most often air strikes, against insurgents.
The forces, which have tens of thousands of troops here trying to put down a Taliban-led insurgency, say they take care to be precise in their targeting and insurgents sometimes use people as "human shields."
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