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Report: NATO error kills 14

Afghan officials say planes hunting Taliban fighters bombed a sleeping road crew.

By Times wires
Published November 29, 2007


KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO warplanes hunting Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan mistakenly bombed a road construction crew sleeping in tents, killing 14 workers, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

If confirmed that NATO hit the wrong target, the incident in mountainous Nuristan province late Monday would be the first major mistake by foreign troops in months. It follows sharp criticism this year of mass civilian casualties caused in operations by U.S. and NATO-led troops.

"We just collected pieces of flesh from our tired workers and put them in 14 coffins," said Nurullah Jalali, the executive director of the Amerifa Road Construction Co. He said that in the year his company had worked in the region, his workers had not come across any militants.

A NATO spokesman confirmed that the aerial bombardment was a mission by NATO's International Security Assistance Force and said Taliban insurgents were supposed to be the target. "We, ISAF, believe that we were able to successfully target a Taliban leader in that area and at that time," said Maj. Charles Anthony. "As far as the allegation of civilian casualties goes, that is under investigation."

Some Afghan officials blamed faulty intelligence for the mistake. "I don't think the Americans were targeting our people," said Sayed Noorullah Jalili, director of the Kabul-based road construction company. "I'm sure it's the enemy of the Afghans who gave the Americans this wrong information."

NATO and other foreign troops in Afghanistan came under scathing criticism this year for carrying out airstrikes based on poor intelligence that caused numerous civilian casualties. As the war has escalated over the past two years, U.S. and NATO commanders have been forced to rely increasingly on airstrikes to engage the Taliban in remote locations.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said last week in Kabul that the alliance has worked hard to change procedures to avoid civilian deaths.

Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified November 29, 2007, 02:26:07]

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