US pledges probe of Afghan deaths

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iol pic wld drone Reuters [Picture for illustration] Undated handout image courtesy of the US Air Force shows a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft.

The head of the US military pledged Thursday to investigate a NATO air strike in Afghanistan and take “appropriate actions” after accounts at least 15 civilians were killed.

“We do our very best to avoid civilian casualties and so this investigation will try to determine if there were civilian casualties,” said General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Then we will take the appropriate actions,” he told reporters in Washington.

An AFP correspondent said he saw at least 15 bodies that had been loaded Wednesday into five vehicles and driven by villagers to Pol-i-Alam, the capital of Logar province south of Kabul.

Deputy provincial police chief Rais Khan Sadeq Abdulrahimzai told AFP that at least 18 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the air strike, and that seven Taliban insurgents died.

NATO forces in Afghanistan said that they ordered the air strike and killed “multiple” insurgents after troops came under attack with small-arms fire and a grenade.

Dempsey said that two civilians had come forward to say that they were wounded but that an initial sweep did not find any other civilian casualties in the rubble.

Civilian deaths have become a major irritant in relations between Western powers and Afghanistan as the United States and its allies prepare to withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014. - Sapa-AFP

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