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Red Cross confirms reports of Afghan civilian deaths

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Geneva, May 6, IRNA – The International Committee of the Red Cross said that its representatives in Afghanistan have witnessed corpses of women and children were among dozens left in the rubble after fighting between Taliban and Western forces.

Spokeswoman for the Geneva-based ICRC Jessica Barry told reporters in Kabul that the dead included women and children.

The Red Cross lent its support to assertions by Afghan officials that dozens of civilians were killed in U.S. bomb strikes this week in an isolated district in western Afghanistan.

These latest allegations of mass civilian deaths during fighting between Western forces and the Taliban are particularly inflammatory, with the outcry intensifying on the day that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is due to meet in Washington with President Obama.

Karzai's office in Kabul issued a statement denouncing such casualties as "unacceptable," and ordered a full investigation. The Afghan leader, whose relations with the new U.S. administration have been strained, intended to raise the issue with Obama in Washington.

The U.S. military has already said it will conduct a joint probe with Afghan authorities, and a team was dispatched today to the scene in the Bala Buluk district of Farah province, which borders Iran. A U.S. brigadier general was taking part in the investigation, U.S. officials said.

Villagers said dozens of people -- including women, children and elderly men -- were killed while sheltering in crowded civilian compounds as fighting raged in the area Monday.

About two dozen insurgents were thought to have died in the confrontation as well. Provincial officials Tuesday put the number of dead around 70.

Over the past year, Karzai has used increasingly sharp language to decry civilian deaths and injuries that occur during confrontations between Western forces and insurgents.

Coalition commanders have altered some battlefield rules in response and say they take all possible precautions to avoid harming noncombatants.

More than seven years after the Taliban movement was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion, the Afghan president, who faces an election challenge in August, has criticized the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to subdue insurgents and rebuild the country.

 



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