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NATO Admits Civilians Killed In Pakistan Strikes

A Pakistani soldier standing guard along the Afghan-Pakistan border (file photo) (epa) June 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- NATO-led forces in Afghanistan today admitted that civilians were among those killed in weekend strikes in Pakistan's Waziristan region.

An RFE/RL correspondent, reporting from Peshawar, cited Pakistani military spokesman General Wahid Arshad as saying as many as 28 civilians, including women and children, were killed in June 23 rocket strikes in North and South Waziristan. Other agencies cite Pakistani military officials as saying nine civilians were killed.

Strikes Aimed At Insurgents

The strikes were aimed against insurgents near the Afghan-Pakistan border who were believed to be planning an attack.

Coalition fighter planes and U.S. helicopter gunships were used in the attacks, which destroyed dozens of houses and a hotel.

A total of 60 people were reported dead.

Arshad told RFE/RL the Pakistani government had registered its concerns with the tripartite commission of Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. military and diplomatic officials.

Major John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told the French news agency AFP that ISAF acknowledges civilians were among the casualties. He did not give figures for how many civilians were among the dead.

He said ISAF "regrets the loss of innocent life."

Presidential Condemnation

The statement comes one day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai sharply condemned high civilian casualties in recent operations by NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

More than 100 civilians are believed to have been killed in military operations in just over a week.

"This operation and its consequences are no longer tolerated, and the Afghan people cannot tolerate them anymore," Karzai said.

A second ISAF spokesman, Nicholas Lunt, was quoted by AFP as saying today that Karzai "has reason to be upset," adding that "we have to improve the way we are operating."

"But let's make clear that no ISAF soldier intends to kill civilians," Lunt added. "That's not the case with the Taliban. They deliberately kill civilians."

Recent Trend

Some 25 Afghan civilians were killed June 21 in a NATO air strike in southern Helmand Province.

The air strike had targeted a group of homes in Gereshk district, where Taliban fighters were firing on foreign and Afghan forces.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after the incident that any civilian casualties in NATO air strikes are "a mistake."