(RFE/RL) -- Asadullah Wafa, the head of a presidential delegation investigating the deaths of 10 people in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar Province earlier this week, says his team has concluded that the victims were civilians, and all were killed in an attack by foreign troops.
Wafa, an adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that among those killed on December 26 in the village of Narang, eight were schoolboys between 13 and 17. Of the remaining two victims, one was an adult relative, and the other was a family guest.
"During my 40 years of service, I have never seen anyone who was a school student and an Al-Qaeda member at the same time,” Wafa said. “So they were definitely defenseless and innocent people. Anyone who did such a thing should pay compensation and apologize for their actions, and it should not be repeated in the future."
A statement from President Hamid Karzai's office today said that Wafa had been shown documents by the head teacher of the school attended by the eight young victims, proving their status as students.
The statement quoted Wafa as saying that the incident took place when "a unit of international forces descended from a plane in the Narang district of Kunar Province and took 10 people from three homes, eight of them school students in grades 6, 9, and 10, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead."
NATO forces in Afghanistan originally reported that the casualties were nine adult insurgents.
Karzai has reportedly spoken with the father and uncles of the students, offering his condolences, and promising a full investigation.
"The president assured them that the government will seriously investigate the incident and deal with the culprits in accordance with the law," the presidential statement said.
NATO Forces Duped?
Wafa suggested that NATO forces had been duped by informants seeking to settle a personal score by falsely suggesting to foreign troops that the victims had been insurgents.
Wafa says local villagers are demanding that the informants must be found and punished.
A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, speaking before the findings of the Afghan investigations were made public, said the Western military alliance was conducting its own investigation into the incident.
"You can see that our enemy, the insurgents, have very little regard for the Afghan people," Colonel Wayne Shanks told reporters in Kabul today. "We have noticed a very dramatic increase in civilian casualties caused by roadside bombs, by attacks by insurgents on the Afghan people."
In the capital of Nangahar Province, which borders Kunar, around 200 university students today protested against the deadly military raid, demanding that those responsible be brought to justice, Reuters reported.
"We have no more patience. It has happened repeatedly. If it occurs again, we will drop our pens and take arms," one group chanted. Others chanted slogans against Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama, according to Reuters.
Civilian casualties have become the main point of contention between the Afghan government and the U.S.-led NATO troops fighting the insurgency.
According to recent figures from the United Nations, 2,021 civilians were killed during clashes in the first 10 months of 2009. This represents a nearly 10 percent increase over the same period the previous year.
The UN blames insurgents for nearly 70 percent of the civilian deaths this year.