November 6, 2008

Afghans: Civilians Killed in Airstrike

At least 40 Afghan civilians were killed and 28 more injured in a U.S.-led airstrike that hit a wedding gathering in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

Xinhua reported Wednesday that U.S.-led coalition forces called in gunship helicopters Monday afternoon to retaliate against militants who had attacked them at Wech Baghtu village in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar.

Officials said the attack hit a wedding party in an area where the Taliban insurgents' firing came from earlier in the day.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was saddened by "the killing of 40 civilians and injuring of 28 others in a coalition air strike."

Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan's president and leader of the provincial council in Kandahar, confirmed to The New York Times there were civilian casualties.

"The coalition and Afghan authorities are investigating reports of non-combatant casualties in the village of Wech Baghtu," Cmdr. Jeff Bender, deputy public affairs officer of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "If innocent people were killed in this operation, we apologize and express our condolences to the families and the people of Afghanistan."