At least 14 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, sparking condemnation from President Hamid Karzai, who has often criticized the conduct of NATO forces.
Abdul Ghani Musamem, a spokesman for the governor of Kunar province, said 14 people died in the airstrike in Narang district on Tuesday and another 13 were wounded.
Civilian casualties in the U.S.-led military coalition’s war against the Taliban have been one of the most contentious issues in the 13-year combat campaign, which will end by December. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) made no immediate comment on Tuesday's airstrike, but it often stresses avoiding civilian casualties.
"As a result of a U.S. aerial bombardment ... 11 civilians, including two children and two women, were killed, and 12 more injured," said a statement issued Wednesday by the presidential palace.
Abdul Hadi Sayedkhil, the police chief of Kunar, told Agence France-Presse news agency that a joint Afghan-NATO patrol was ambushed by rebels.
"The foreign forces called for air support, and as a result of bombardment, a number of militants and civilians were killed. We are investigating the incident," he said.
Saleh Mohammad, a survivor being treated in a hospital in the provincial capital, Asadabad, said there were two waves of bombings.
"Four of our villagers were on their way back home from work when airplanes bombed them," he told AFP. "When people went to the area to collect their bodies or take the wounded people to hospital, we were bombed again. Dozens of people, including women and children, were killed or wounded."
Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Karzai, said on Twitter that the president "strongly condemns a U.S. airstrike that killed and injured civilians including women & a child."
Maj. Paul Greenberg, a spokesman for the NATO-led coalition, said a precision strike killed one fighter in nearby Dangam district.
It is often difficult to confirm the toll from airstrikes and other attacks in rural Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera and wire services