KUNDUZ, Afghanistan,, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 03rd Nov, 2016 ) - US airstrikes early Thursday killed at least 30 Afghan civilians, including women and children, in the volatile northern province of Kunduz, officials said, after a Taliban assault left two American soldiers dead. The airstrike triggered emotionally-charged protests in the provincial capital, with the victims' relatives parading mutilated bodies of dead children piled into open trucks through the streets of Kunduz city.
The carnage underscores worsening insecurity after the Taliban last month overran Kunduz city for the second time in a year, as NATO-backed Afghan forces struggle to rein in the insurgents. Afghan forces and coalition troops were conducting a joint operation against the Taliban on the outskirts of the city when they came under insurgent fire, prompting calls for air support. "In the bombardment 30 Afghan civilians were martyred and 25 others were wounded," provincial spokesman Mahmood Danish told AFP.
Police spokesman Mahmoodullah Akbari gave the same toll to AFP, adding that the dead included infants aged as young as three months and other children. "They were asleep when their house came under attack by coalition troops," Akbari said. In a brief statement on Twitter, NATO conceded that US forces were behind the airstrike. "Airstrikes were conducted in #Kunduz to defend friendly forces under fire. All civilian casualty claims will be investigated," it said.
Taza Gul, a 55-year-old labourer, was among dozens of angry protesters outside the Kunduz governor's office, bringing with him the bodies of seven dead family members in a motorised tricycle. "I am devastated. I want to know, why these innocent children were killed? Were they Taliban?" said Gul. "No, they were innocent children." Civilian caused by NATO forces have been one of the most contentious issues in the 15-year campaign against the insurgents, prompting strong public and government criticism. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was "deeply saddened" by the killings, while urging the military to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. "The enemies of Afghanistan's people use civilian houses in Kunduz as shields, resulting in the killing of a number of our countrymen, including women and children," the presidential palace said in a statement.