Karzai slams US-led raid causing civilian casualties
* Afghan president orders investigation into Khost raid which killed four family members and an unborn baby
KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday slammed a US-led raid that locals said killed four members of a family as well as an unborn baby shot dead in its mother’s womb.
Karzai ordered a sweeping investigation and reiterated demands that foreign troops, who are in Afghanistan to fight extremist insurgents, conduct their operations in a manner that does not harm civilians.
The US military has admitted that the four people shot dead in the raid overnight on Wednesday to Thursday in the eastern province of Khost were not “armed combatants” as first announced.
The nine-months pregnant woman had survived the shooting that killed her unborn child, said a relative, Afghan army officer Awal Khan. Khan’s wife, brother and two children were killed.
An Afghan health official also said the unborn baby was shot dead in its mother’s womb.
In a statement expressing sadness about the incident, Karzai said he had ordered his interior and defence ministries, the intelligence service and local government to investigate and present their findings to him on Saturday.
Karzai had “for several years repeatedly asked the international military forces carry out their counterterrorism operations in ways that do not cause civilian casualties”, the statement said.
He reiterated this demand and insisted that foreign forces adhere to a directive signed months ago to fully coordinate their operations with their Afghan counterparts and base them on accurate information, it said.
Although he has not formally announced his intentions, Karzai has hinted that he will put himself up for re-election August’s presidential vote.
Civilian casualties caused by international forces in Afghanistan have sparked frequent anger and resentment, and Karzai has warned they threaten to widen the divide between authorities and ordinary people.
The United Nations said in February that a record 2,118 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict in 2008, with nearly 40 percent of the deaths caused by pro-government forces, including US-led and NATO troops. afp