A U.S.-led NATO attack killed six members of a family in Afghanistan late Friday night, in what was supposed to be a response to a Taliban attack. Instead of the Taliban, the American airstrike took the lives of a mother and five children, as well as up to eight other victims.
The attack was first revealed by Helmland Province governor Muhammad Gulab Mangal on Monday. Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for the United States military in Helmland, stated that:
“We don’t have any issues with the governor’s statement.”
Colonel Upton went on to say that:
“We expressed regret over the incident, and we’re investigating to determine how this happened. We are deeply saddened by any civilian death and particularly regret an incident where civilians are killed….”
Lt. Col. Upton also stated that American officials were aware of the civilian casualties, and began an investigation immediately.
He added that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus of the Marines, who was called in for a formal complaint by province governor Mangal, would be sending a formal complaint to the families affected in the next few days.
The area in Helmland province, Sangin, is a crucial spot in Afghanistan, and has also seen a lot of combat in recent months. The airstrike was reportedly a response to the Taliban’s repeated attacks on checkpoints in Sangin’s Payan village. Thee U.S. military was called in for a response, and in the process a civilian home was hit.
The attack comes at a crucial time, as a NATO summit in Chicago is set to take place in a few weeks, where allies are expected to discuss plans to pull most of the combat troops out of Afghanistan, while maintaining a small presence to train Afghan forces, as well as providing long-term development aid.