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Terrorism & Security

NATO airstrike kills at least 27 Afghanistan civilians

A NATO airstrike that killed at least 27 Afghanistan civilians in the south is another blow to the new US 'hearts and minds' strategy.

By Correspondent / February 22, 2010

An Afghan man watches a US army convoy pass in the Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan Monday.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

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A NATO airstrike mistakenly killed at least 27 Afghanistan civilians in the southern province of Uruzgan on Sunday, Afghan officials said Monday, in one of the deadliest attacks since a September strike killed up to 140 civilians in Kunduz province.

The airstrike was not related to the massive NATO offensive ongoing in Marjah, in neighboring Helmand Province, but is another blow to the new US strategy of winning over the local population by protecting civilians.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement that the Afghans were mistakenly believed to be insurgents on their way to attack coalition forces when they were attacked, reports The New York Times. According to the statement, troops found women and children when they arrived at the scene, and transported them to medical centers.

The Times quotes an Interior Ministry official who said the civilians were traveling in two Land Cruisers and a pickup truck near the remote mountain pass of Khotal Chowzar, which is under Talian control, when they were mistakenly bombed. The BBC, which includes a map of the region, said the Afghan cabinet revised the death toll downwards from a prior statement that 33 were killed.

The ISAF said it had begun an investigation into the incident, but Reuters reports the Afghan cabinet called the killings "unjustifiable.” CNN reports that a Dari and Pashtun version of the cabinet’s statement said: "The council of ministers strongly condemns the repeated killing of civilians by NATO," a sentence that was not included in the English version.

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