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Five Afghan civilians accidentally killed in airstrike: NATO

Afghan civilian deaths a 'serious setback': British military chief
London (AFP) Feb 15, 2010 - The death of 12 Afghan civilians in rocket attacks during a major US-led offensive is a "very serious setback", the head of Britain's armed forces admitted Monday. But Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defence staff, said NATO forces could overcome the incident, while warning that the success of Operation Mushtarak could not be judged for about a year. "It is a very serious setback. It is not one which can't be overcome and of course the Afghans themselves, the local government, play a key role in this," Stirrup told BBC radio. He was speaking the day after 12 Afghan civilians were killed when two rockets missed their targets and landed on a compound as troops came under fire in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province. US Marines are leading 15,000 US, NATO and Afghan troops in the assault focusing on Marjah town, which has been controlled by Taliban and drug traffickers for years. Stirrup urged patience in any assessment of the success of the mission. "This a very challenging operation. Time is important and it is going to take time for us to persuade the locals that they should be accepting the Afghan government," he said. "In about 12 months, we will be able to look back and say that this whole operation has been successful."

Another British soldier killed in Afghanistan: ministry
London (AFP) Feb 15, 2010 - A British soldier died defusing a bomb in southern Afghanistan on Monday, the Ministry of Defence, adding that his death was not linked to a major US-led assault in the south of the country. The soldier from the 36 Engineer Regiment had been clearing roadside bombs close to Patrol Base Ezaray, near Sangin district centre in Helmand province when the explosion occurred, the ministry said. "He was one of that unique breed who go out again and again to confront the dangers of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), determined to save lives," said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Wakefield. "His indomitable courage will not be forgotten." His death brings to 261 the number of British soldiers killed during operations in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001. Many of them were killed by IEDs planted by Taliban insurgents. The soldier was not part of Operation Mushtarak, a campaign launched Saturday involving 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops which aims to clear militants from the Marjah and Nad Ali districts in the poppy-growing central Helmand River valley. Earlier Monday, the MoD confirmed the death of a British soldier Sunday in the Musa Qaleh district of the southern Helmand Province, also not linked to the Operation Mushtarak.
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) Feb 15, 2010
Five Afghan civilians were accidentally killed and two others injured in an airstrike in southern Afghanistan, NATO said Monday, in an incident unrelated to a major US-led anti-Taliban operation.

The deaths were accidental, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said, adding that the victims had been mistaken for insurgents planting improvised bombs.

"An ISAF airstrike against suspected insurgents accidentally killed five and wounded two civilians in the Zhari district of Kandahar province today," ISAF said in a statement.

"This event was not part of Operation Moshtarak," it added, referring to the massive assault in neighbouring Helmand province, where 15,000 US-led troops are aiming to eradicate militants from one of their last bastions in the south.

The incident comes a day after ISAF said 12 Afghan civilians were killed when two rockets missed their intended target in Helmand's Nad Ali district and slammed into a residential compound.

US General Stanley McChrystal, who commands 113,000 US and NATO troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban-led insurgency, apologised for that incident, which marked the first civilian casualties of Operation Mushtarak.

Monday's incident took place in Kandahar, the site of the Taliban's base from 1996 until its overthrow by US-led forces in late 2001.

ISAF said the airstrike had been ordered after a patrol of Afghan and ISAF soldiers observed people they thought were burying improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the homemade bombs that have exacted a devastating toll on troops and civilians alike.

"A joint Afghan-ISAF patrol observed the individuals digging along a path, and believed that the individuals were emplacing an IED," the statement said.

"The joint patrol called for an airstrike. Following the strike, the Afghan-ISAF patrol approached the scene and determined the individuals had not been emplacing an IED.

"The joint patrol provided immediate first aid, and the wounded were flown to an ISAF medical facility for treatment," the statement said, adding an apology from Major General Michael Regner, ISAF Joint Command's deputy chief of staff for joint operations.

ISAF did not identify the nationality of the foreign soldiers involved in the incident.

Civilian casualties are an incendiary issue among Afghans, who often blame these on the presence of foreign soldiers despite the fact that most civilian casualties, according to the United Nations, are caused by Taliban attacks.

The Taliban deftly exploits civilian deaths and injuries to turn public opinion against foreign involvement in the war, now in its ninth year.

President Hamid Karzai on Sunday issued a warning to troops in the Helmand offensive to take all measures to avoid harming residents.

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US missile raid kills seven militants in Pakistan: officials
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Missiles from a US drone aircraft killed seven Islamist militants at a training compound in Pakistan's lawless northwestern tribal belt on Sunday, officials said. Two missiles slammed into a building near the main town in North Waziristan, a tribal region rife with Taliban, Al-Qaeda-linked fighters and militants from the Haqqani network, which is known for its attacks in Afghanistan. Was ... read more

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