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Kunduz Attack in November Killed 33 Civilians, U.S. Military Says

A United States 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, American military officials said on Thursday.

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

Two American soldiers and three Afghan commandos were killed, 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., the commander of United States 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 that the investigation had 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 own relatives.

"There were no Taliban among us, there was no Taliban in our house. Except for one former Talib, who was disabled and had lost a leg and he was our cousin," he said. "He was killed along with his father, his wife and five children. His brother was also killed."

Mr. Mohammed said the Taliban stronghold in the area was obvious, but it was far from the areas that had been bombed.

"This was an act of oppression," he said. "We are also humans. It should be investigated by an international court, and we need to be compensated for our loss."

Kunduz is also where a United States 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.

[Source: By Mujib Mashal, The New York Times, Kabul, 12Jan17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 16Jan17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.