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Alleged killing of civilians a setback to NATO mission in Afghanistan

07-28-2010 09:20 BJT

KABUL, July 27 (Xinhua) -- The latest wave of NATO-led troops' aggressive strike against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's restive southern region left over 50 civilians dead on Friday, the Afghan government said Monday, even though NATO forces vehemently disputed the incident.

The alleged mishap -- which could be a repeat of past mistakes - - seems to have angered both the government and the people of Afghanistan.

A statement released by the Presidential Palace stressed that 52 civilians including women and children were martyred as a rocket fired by NATO-led troops hit a house in Rigi village of Sangin district in Helmand province on Friday.

In the statement, President Hamid Karzai, besides strongly condemning the incident and expressing condolence and sympathy to the families of the victims, described it as "morally and humanly unacceptable" and called on NATO to avoid harming civilians during military operations.

This is not the first time that the Afghan government slashed NATO forces' action against Taliban militants for claiming the lives of innocent non-combatants.

The mistake had been repeated several times over the past nine years and the bloody ones are the killing of more than 90 others in Balablock district of western Farah province in 2008, killing of over 100 others in northern Kunduz province in 2009, and killing of 27 in Uruzgan province in February 2010.

However, NATO-led forces in a statement released on Monday evening rejected the reported killing of civilians in Sangin district, saying a joint investigation by NATO and the Afghan government has found no evidence of harming civilians.

"Any speculation at this point of an alleged civilian casualty in Rigi village is completely unfound," the statement emphasized.

Based on the assessment of the country's intelligence service, the National Security Directorate (NSD), the Afghan Presidential Palace in its statement confirmed the killing of 52 civilians in Sangin district and strongly condemned it.

Repeating such mistake in the eyes of Afghans would once again discredit NATO's ability and tarnish its image among the war- weary Afghans.

Joining the government in slamming NATO's recent mistake and harming non-combatants, Afghans from all walks of life expressed their resentments.

"Basically, NATO's mission in Afghanistan is to defeat terrorists, protect the life and property of Afghans and ensure lasting peace there," an ordinary Afghan Mohammad Khan, 53, said.

Killing civilians, according to Afghans, would benefit the anti- government militants to bolster their propaganda against both the Afghan government and NATO and recruit more fighters.

Observers are of the view that inflicting casualties to civilians would motivate new fighters from the victims' families to join Taliban in order to avenge and eventually fuel the endemic conflict in Afghanistan.

Observers believe Taliban militants have strengthened their roots in the provinces where civilians had suffered at the hands of NATO-led forces in the past years, and Helmand, Farah and Kunduz are the good examples of the notion.

A relatively peaceful province in north Afghanistan, Kunduz has been experiencing Taliban-linked increasing insurgency since September 2009 when a NATO air strike claimed the lives of more than 100 people mostly civilians.

Complete peace had returned in Afghanistan after the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001, but repeated mistakes and harming innocent civilians forced many renegade youths to join Taliban and take arms against the establishment, said observers.

With this perspective, continuation of harming civilians from one side would further damage the credibility of NATO mission in the eyes of Afghans and on the other, would widen the gap between people and government in Afghanistan.

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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