Afghan authorities confirmed today that at least 13 civilians, including six women and two children, were killed in a US missile strike near Herat. The US said the strike targeted a “key insurgent commander.”
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rick Helmer said in a statement that “we take all reports of non-combatant casualties very seriously and investigate these claims with the assistance of our Afghan forces counterparts.”
Herat was the site of a US air strike in August of last year which killed at least 90 civilians, the vast majority of whom were women and children, and anti-US sentiment in the area has remained high ever since. Repeated US denials only made matters worse, and the announcement of a quick investigation in this incident is likely aimed at avoiding a repeat.
2008 saw the highest rate of civilian killings in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. While violence traditionally rises dramatically in summer, the situation so far this year looks no better, as there have been a number of major incidents.
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