140 Afghan civilians killed in US strikes

KABUL: The Afghan defence ministry confirmed today that an investigation appointed by President Hamid Karzai found that 140 civilians were killed in an incident involving US air strikes last week.

The team’s finding had already been given to reporters by Afghan officials but the ministry’s statement was the first official announcement.

It was released after being presented to Karzai on Friday.

Headed by an army general, the team had travelled to the Bala Buluk district of the southwestern province of Farah after the May 4-5 fighting, the defence ministry said.

“The delegation visited the site of the incident, the graves, assessed intelligence authorities’ reports, met the ulema (religious leaders), elders and locals to complete their investigation,” the Defence Ministry statement states.

“Based on local accounts, reports of intelligence authorities, professional assessments and observations, (it) put the number of the martyred in this awful incident at 140 and the number of wounded at 25,” it said.

The toll makes it one of the deadliest incidents of civilian casualties involving the international military since the late 2001 US-led invasion.

The US military has said “a number” of civilians were killed but it was impossible to say how many because all the bodies were buried before investigators arrived.

The military has also accused the Taliban of firing at troops from civilian compounds that were hit in the strikes.