KABUL - US air strikes in western Afghanistan killed 13 Afghan civilians and only three militants, the US military said yesterday, three days after an American general traveled to the site to investigate.
Civilian casualties have been a huge source of friction between the United States and President Hamid Karzai, who has stepped up demands that US and NATO operations kill no civilians and that Afghan soldiers take part in the missions to help prevent unwanted deaths.
The US military said the fact that an American general traveled to the western province of Herat to investigate shows how seriously the country takes civilian casualties.
The military rarely releases the findings of civilian casualty investigations, and the disclosure this time could show the effect of Karzai's criticisms.
The United States originally said 15 militants were killed Tuesday in a coalition operation in the Gozara district of Herat province, but Afghan officials said six women and two children were among the dead, casting doubt on the US claim.
Afghan officials say the group targeted in the air strikes were living in two tents in a remote area. An ethnic group of Afghans known as Kuchis travel the countryside with livestock and live in tents.
Photographs obtained by the Associated Press from the site showed the bloodied body of a boy lying on a white shroud.
In response, Brigadier General Michael Ryan traveled to the site to meet with Afghan elders.
Investigators found weapons and ammunition at the site, but concluded that 13 civilians were killed along with three militants.
The United States yesterday released photos of Ryan talking with Afghan elders and hugging a mourning Afghan man
US air strikes kill 13 civilians in Afghanistan - The Boston Globe