David Batty and agencies
Wednesday November 28, 2007
Afghans load a casket of a victim of the Jalalabad air strike into an ambulance. Photograph: Rafiq Shirzad/Reuters
US forces mistakenly killed at least a dozen road construction workers in air strikes in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said today.As many as 14 engineers and labourers were killed in the incident on Monday in Nuristan province, which officials blamed on faulty intelligence, possibly fed out by the Taliban.
The workers, who had been contracted by the US military to build a road in the mountainous province, were sleeping in their tents when they were killed, according to Sayed Noorullah Jalili, director of the road construction company Amerifa.
“All of our poor workers have been killed,” Jalili said. “I don’t think the Americans were targeting our people. I’m sure it’s the enemy of the Afghans who gave the Americans this wrong information.”
The company has asked the US military to investigate the information that led to the air strike, Jalili said.
The Nuristan governor, Tamim Nuristani, said US troops had been tipped off that a feared local Taliban commander was in the area but they hit the wrong target.
The US-led coalition said it was investigating the incident. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed it had conducted air strikes against Taliban fighters in the area, but did not say when.
“ISAF was engaged in Nurgaram and Du Ab districts, and in those places we used air strikes against [Taliban],” said the ISAF spokesman, Brigadier General Carlos Branco. “The situation is not clear at all at this stage. We are carrying out the investigation and trying to get a clear picture.”
The incident is likely to fuel Afghan resentment at the presence of international forces. Earlier this year, foreign troops came under scathing criticism for conducting air strikes based on poor intelligence that caused a number of civilian casualties.
Afghanistan has seen a steady rise in violence over the past two years since the Taliban renewed its attempt to overthrow the pro-western Afghan government and eject more than 50,000 foreign troops.