The head of NATO forces in Afghanistan apologized on Saturday for the death of two Afghan boys in an airstrike gone awry.
The airstrike happened in Shahid-e Hasas district, Urizgan province, in central Afghanistan. General Joseph Dunford, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stated that the NATO forces mistook the children for insurgents.
United Press International reports that the NATO forces fired at the children from the air. Dunford stated of the incident:
“I offer my personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed.”
Dunford also apologized to the families of the boys killed in the attack. He added:
“I am committed to ensuring we do the right thing for the families of those we harmed, as well as for the community in which they lived. We take full responsibility for this tragedy.”
BBC notes that civilian deaths have enraged the Afghan people. President Hamid Karzai recently signed an order that bans his troops from calling in foreign air strikes in residential areas.
The move came after a NATO airstrike killed 10 people on February 13, including five women and four children. General Dunford also stated that ISAF and investigators from Afghanistan already visited the village in the area where the boys lived. They met local leaders there as well.
The NATO troops responsible for killing the boys were reportedly from Australia. They did so after coming under attack from the Taliban. The governor of the province stated, “The children were killed by Australian troops, it was a mistaken incident, not a deliberate one.”
There are about 1,500 Australian troops based in Uruzgan province. Their main focus in the area is to train and mentor Afghan soldiers. The NATO-led troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. As a result, they have been gradually handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts.
[Image by United States Marine Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]