Following up on reports emerging over the weekend, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office is confirming that a NATO attack in Sangin District of the Helmand Province struck a houseload of civilians hiding from a nearby battle, and that at least 52 civilians were killed.
The Karzai government has promised an investigation into the killings of the civilians, which were said to have included a large number of women and children, a number of wounded civilians were also reported in the tiny village.
NATO had previously denied that any such incident had occurred, claiming their own preliminary investigation turned up no indication of any civilian casualties in Sangin. This is largely in keeping with other cases of large scale civilian deaths, however, as NATO generally has denied them when the details first come to light, and only claims then later, if at all.
The civilian deaths will likely draw renewed attention to new commander Gen. David Petraeus’ plans to significantly tone down restrictions on the rules of engagement designed to prevent large scale killings of civilians. It will be difficult, havng just killed 52 civilians, for NATO to argue that the rules are too strict for them.