U.S. of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge civil­ian deaths

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - WORLD - By Mu­jib Mashal

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN >> A U.S. mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into claims of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties dur­ing a joint op­er­a­tion by Afghan and Amer­i­can forces found that 33 civil­ians were killed and 27 oth­ers were wounded dur­ing a fire­fight and airstrikes in Kun­duz prov­ince last year, U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

In early Novem­ber, Afghan Spe­cial Forces, ac­com­pa­nied by U.S. mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers, came un­der in­tense fire dur­ing an op­er­a­tion to ar­rest Tal­iban com­man­ders in Boz Qan­da­hari, a vil­lage in Kun­duz, the U.S. mil­i­tary com­mand in Afghanistan said in a state­ment. They called in U.S. airstrikes, which re­sulted in some of the civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.

Two Amer­i­can sol­diers and three Afghan com­man­dos were killed in the fight­ing, and four Amer­i­can sol­diers and 11 com­man­dos were wounded, the state­ment said. “Re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances, I deeply re­gret the loss of in­no­cent lives,” said Gen. John W. Ni­chol­son Jr., com­man­der of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “On this oc­ca­sion the Tal­iban chose to hide amongst civil­ians and then at­tacked Afghan and U.S. forces.”

“I wish to as­sure Pres­i­dent Ghani and the peo­ple of Afghanistan that we will take all pos­si­ble mea­sures to pro­tect Afghan civil­ians,” he added, re­fer­ring to Ashraf Ghani.

Af­ter the bat­tle in Kun­duz, a New York Times re­porter counted 22 bod­ies be­ing brought into the city on the way to the hos­pi­tal there. Among them were 14 chil­dren, four women, two older men and two men of fight­ing age. They were ac­com­pa­nied by a large group of protesters from Boz Qan­da­hari, the vil­lage that was hit. Res­i­dents of Boz Qan­da­hari, how­ever, said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der­es­ti­mated the num­ber of civil­ians killed and that the claim of Tal­iban fir­ing at the forces from their homes was not true.

“My fa­ther was a shop­keeper — he had a gro­cery shop close to our house. My brother and I were farm­ers. We had never had a weapon. I and no one in my fam­ily knows how to use a weapon,” said Mo­hammed Reza, 29, who lost seven fam­ily mem­bers in the bombing and was stuck in the rub­ble of their house for hours. “I lost my fa­ther, my brother, my brother’s wife, my son and three of my neph­ews, who were be­tween 1 and 7 years old.”

Dad Mo­hammed, 45, said he was aware of at least 37 killed among his rel­a­tives. Kun­duz is also where a U.S. mil­i­tary gun­ship mis­tak­enly tar­geted a hos­pi­tal run by Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders in Oc­to­ber 2015, killing at least 42 peo­ple and de­stroy­ing much of the hos­pi­tal.

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