KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — At least fifteen civilians were killed on early Wednesday morning when the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) carried out an airstrike in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a protest by residents living in the area, local officials said.
ISAF said the incident happened in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province during an operation to detain a local Taliban leader. “During the operation, insurgents attacked the Afghan and coalition troops with small-arms fire and a grenade,” the multi-national force said in a statement. “The security force returned fire and requested a precision airstrike.”
Provincial officials said at least fifteen civilians were killed in the ISAF airstrike, but other officials said as many as eighteen civilians were killed, including seven children, five women and six men. ISAF acknowledged two civilian women were injured in the airstrike and were taken to a medical facility with non-life-threatening injuries.
“We are aware of the reports coming out of Logar describing the tragic death of a number of Afghan civilians,” an ISAF spokesperson said after reports of civilian casualties emerged. “ISAF goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties in all its operations and takes each claim of civilian casualties very seriously. This incident is no different.”
The alliance said multiple insurgents were also killed during the operation but gave no specific number. The Taliban leader targeted is accused of participating in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout Logar province. He is also accused of commanding multiple insurgents and acquiring weapons for use in insurgent attacks.
Some Afghan officials claimed the insurgents may have been hiding near or in the houses of Afghan civilians when they were approached by coalition forces.
Following the deadly airstrike, residents in the affected area went to Pul-i-Alam where they protested in front of the governor’s office. The protesters were carrying the bodies of the victims and chanted slogans such as “death to America”, “death to the Afghan government”, “death to [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai” and “death to [U.S. President] Barack Obama.”
Last month, at least 20 civilians were killed when coalition forces carried out two separate airstrikes in the southern and northwestern regions of Afghanistan. In one of the incidents, an ISAF helicopter targeted a militant hideout in Helmand province but accidentally struck a residential house, killing a family.