KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai and NATO commanders ordered an investigation Sunday into reports that a family of eight had been killed in a coalition airstrike in eastern Afghanistan.
NATO and Afghan provincial government officials gave somewhat divergent accounts of the episodes. The casualties took place in eastern Paktia province Saturday night when the family's home was hit by a bomb, said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia.
Six children were killed, four boys and two girls, as well as their mother and father, whose name was Safiullah. They lived in Sar Khilo village in the remote Gerdi Seri district, he said, adding that the circumstances of the bombing were not clear but that the operation was carried out without coordination with Afghan security forces.
However, a spokesman for the Afghan National Army in Paktia, Col. Fazli Khuda, said it was a joint operation to target insurgent fighters from the Haqqani faction who operate there. Sar Khilo is a remote, mountainous area on the border between Paktia and Khost province and is dominated by the Zadran tribe, which is the same tribe as the Haqqani clan.
The Haqqanis, the insurgent group dominant in southeastern Afghanistan, are believed to be behind some of the bloodiest and most audacious attacks that have taken place in Afghanistan in the past three years, including the 19-hour-long attack on the U.S. Embassy in September and more recent multiple attacks in Kabul in April that targeted the embassy neighborhood as well as the Parliament and an area near a NATO camp.
According to the NATO account, on Saturday evening a combined NATO and Afghan force on a ground patrol came under heavy attack by more than 20 insurgents, said Maj. Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. "They were attacked by a large group of insurgents in southern Paktia and they returned fire and requested close air support and received it," he said. "We are trying to determine whether the mission has any direct correlation to the claims of civilian casualties."
Although no NATO soldiers were killed in the fighting in Paktia, seven coalition soldiers were killed over the weekend in different episodes in southern and eastern Afghanistan, according to a NATO spokesman. The nationalities of the soldiers were not released pending the notification of family members.
On Saturday, four coalition soldiers were killed in three roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan, NATO said. Two of the soldiers were killed in one of the explosions, and the other two died in separate episodes.
On Sunday, three coalition soldiers died in eastern Afghanistan. One died in a roadside bombing and the other two in an insurgent attack.
First Published May 28, 2012 12:00 AM