Guardian for Muslims/ James Sturcke
Nato air strike in Afghanistan kills scores
Tabari IX:69 – “Killing disbelievers Taliban is a small matter to us (Muslims) (disbelievers)”
At least 90 dead, including 40 civilians, in strike on fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban, officials say
At least 90 people, including 40 civilians, have been killed in northernAfghanistan afterÂ Nato launched an air strike on two fuel tankers hijacked by theÂ Taliban, officials said today.
Militants seized the two trucks, which were delivering jet fuel to Nato forces, around midnight. The alliance launched the strike in Kunduz province as the Taliban fighters tried to drive the vehicles across a river, the police chief Gulam Mohyuddin said.
Afghan officials said the attack had killed 90 people, including 40 civilians. The provincial governor, Mohammad Omar, told Reuters the dead included villagers who had gathered to collect fuel from the tankers.
Nato confirmed there was an air strike in Kunduz overnight.
Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker, press officer for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), said Nato aircraft spotted the hijacked lorries on a river bank.
“After observing that only insurgents were in the area, the local Isaf commander ordered air strikes which destroyed the fuel trucks and killed a large number of insurgents,” she said.
“The strike was against insurgents. That’s who we believe was killed. But we are absolutely investigating [reports of civilian deaths].”
Asked how pilots could know whether a crowd gathered around the truck included civilians or fighters, she said: “Based on information available at the scene, the commanders believed they were insurgents.”
A Taliban spokesman told the BBC that its fighters had stolen the two Nato fuel tankers last night, which then got stuck, although he did not say how.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said fighters had captured the two fuel tankers but one became stuck in mud by a village.
The fighters decided to empty the tankers and local people arrived to take some of the fuel, he said.
At that point the air strike took place, causing a huge explosion.
One of the tanker drivers told the BBC two of his colleagues had been beheaded when the Taliban carried out the hijacking.
The incident could reignite anger with foreign troops over civilian casualties. It comes two months after the new commander of US and Afghan forces in the country, General Stanley McChrystal, announced measures to reduce civilian casualties, which he said were undermining the war effort.
Mohammad Humayun Khamosh, a doctor at Kunduz Central hospital in the provincial capital, said 13 people with burns were brought there for treatment, but none of the dead had been taken to the hospital’s morgue because the bodies were too badly burnt.
“It is very hard to collect dead bodies or remains from the blast because the fuel they were collecting was highly flammable,” he said.
Ghulam Yahya, one of dozens of relatives gathered outside the hospital, said: “My brother was burnt when the aircraft bombed the fuel tankers. I don’t know whether he is dead or alive.” said weeping villager
The governor told the Associated Press that the dead included the senior Taliban commander for the district, Abdur Rahman, and four Chechen fighters.
“Abdur Rahman is a very dangerous man,” he said.
The incident occurred 1.2 miles (2km) from the village of Omar Khel, officials said.
The Kunduz area is patrolled mainly by Nato’s German contingent, which is barred by Berlin from operating in combat zones.
McChrystal’s tactical directive followedÂ intense criticism of Nato air strikes by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and others earlier this summer. The controversy was fuelled byÂ a report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan that said coalition air strikes were responsible for nearly a third of the 1,013 civilian deaths during the first half of the year. The report found that Taliban landmines and suicide bombers were responsible for 59% of civilian casualties during those six months.
In July, it emerged that theÂ Ministry of Defence had paid or was considering compensation for more than 100 civilian deaths caused by the British army in Helmand province.