Afghan parliament condemns US air strikes
Regular killing of innocent civilians in US Air strikes have been protested but now for the first time Afghan Parliament has condemned US Air Strikes on its civilians.
The Afghan parliament condemned Monday civilian casualties in US-led air strikes after Afghan officials said more than 40 people were killed in two recent raids, including one that struck a wedding. The UN representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, expressed "grave concern" about the allegations -- rejected by the coalition -- and called for investigations to clarify what happened.
Various parliamentary committees held a special meeting on the strikes, which happened on Friday and Sunday in remote and mountains areas on the eastern border with Pakistan.
"The Afghan people cannot tolerate American forces' bombing of civilians any more," deputy speaker of the Lower House, Mirwais Yasini, told reporters after Monday's meeting.
"We are are stuck between a rock and a hard place, between Taliban attacks and foreign forces air strikes," he said.
Civilians are regularly caught up in violence linked to an extremist insurgency launched after the hardline Islamic Taliban regime was removed from power in late 2001 in a US-led invasion.
The United Nations said last month that nearly 700 Afghan civilians had lost their lives in such violence this year, nearly two-thirds in militant attacks and about 255 in military operations.
Parliament could be forced to make "serious decisions" about the 70,000 NATO and US troops helping Afghanistan to fight the militant uprising, said Yasini, without giving details.
Civilian casualties could also spur ordinary people into violent protest, he said.
"We are sure if the bombing of civilians does not stop, it will provoke violence and the foreign forces will be responsible."
Nangarhar province government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told AFP that 27 civilians -- most of them women and children -- were killed in air strikes that hit a wedding party Sunday. The dead included the bride, he said.
But the US-led coalition rejected the allegations but said it was investigating. "We have no information beyond what we have been saying, that they were combatants," Captain Christian Patterson told AFP.
Nuristan deputy governor Abdul Halim said 15 civilians, including two doctors and two midwives, were killed in attacks in his province on Friday.
The coalition has said the strikes hit two vehicles of militants who had been seen attacking a NATO base.
In neither case could the tolls be independently verified.
The UN's Eide said he had spoken to President Hamid Karzai and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force about the matter. The UN was also investigating, he told reporters.
"It is really important, when you have different versions of events, that we manage to establish the facts as precisely as possible," Eide said.
"But I must emphasise these kinds of incidents and reports are of very grave concern."
Civilian casualties by international forces is a sensitive issue in Afghanistan as the foreign troops seek the backing of locals to defeat insurgents in a battle observers say cannot be won through military means alone.
Karzai has made repeated calls on his military allies to better coordinate their action with local forces while rights groups have called for less reliance on air power to fight militants.
The international forces say they take the utmost care to avoid civilians, going through thorough identification procedures before firing at targets.