Afghan officials say a NATO airstrike has killed at least seven women in eastern Afghanistan. NATO has admitted there may have been civilian casualties.
Local officials said Sunday’s airstrike came just before dawn in Alingar district of Laghman province, east of Kabul. They said the women were just setting off to collect firewood.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initially spoke of an air attack on some 45 insurgents, but later conceded there may have been civilian victims as well, expressing its condolences over “possible ISAF-caused civilian casualties.”
Civilian deaths in NATO airstrikes have been a source of tension between the United States and the Afghan government. In June, the NATO-led ISAF ordered a stop to airstrikes on homes except in cases of absolute necessity.
Despite such measures, over 200 civilians have been killed by foreign troops this year, according to coalition estimates. The toll is, however, down 50 percent on last year.
More ‘insider attacks’
The incident comes after a weekend on which six soldiers were killed in attacks by presumed Afghan colleagues.
Four soldiers with the NATO forces were shot dead and two wounded on Sunday in a suspected “insider attack,” with a local official saying those killed were Americans. Sunday’s shooting took place in Zabol province, where US forces are based.
One member of the Afghan National Police was killed in the attack on a checkpoint, and five are reportedly missing.
The attack came a day after two British soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan policeman in southern Helmand province, a known Taliban stronghold.
Rise in ‘green on blue’ killings
The weekend’s deaths brought to 51 the number of foreign military personnel killed in “insider attacks” this year. The rise in such attacks has led to a suspension of training of new recruits to the Afghan army and police while new vetting procedures are implemented.
More coalition deaths occurred on Friday, when two US marines were killed in an attack on the NATO-operated base Camp Bastion in Helmand province on Friday.
Nine more coalition soldiers were wounded in the attack, while all but one of the attackers were killed. Britain’s Prince Harry was at the base at the time of the raid, but was unharmed.
The attackers destroyed six US Harrier aircraft and damaged two more. They also destroyed three refuelling stations and caused damage to six aircraft hangars.