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U.S. to Investigate Deaths Related to 2 Battles in Afghanistan
Published on Monday, April 17, 2006 by the New York Times
U.S. to Investigate Deaths Related to 2 Battles in Afghanistan
by Carlotta Gall
 

KABUL, Afghanistan - The United States military on Sunday announced that it would investigate the deaths connected to two combat operations in Afghanistan in the past two days against insurgents believed to be tied to the Taliban.

Seven civilians were reported killed in one battle. In the other battle, civilians also were reported killed or wounded, and four Afghan police officers were reported by villagers to have been killed by United States fire.

The prompt decision to investigate the circumstances in both incidents and to announce the step reflected a new openness by the United States military command about its operations in Afghanistan. But it also revealed coordination problems among Afghan forces, the American military and other foreign forces in Afghanistan as the insurgency that is believed to be linked to the country's former Taliban rulers has found strength with the return of spring weather.

Coalition forces fought insurgents in Kunar Province in the east on Saturday night, pounding a house and a cave where militants were holed up, using air support, artillery and direct fire. "Several of the insurgents are believed to have been killed; the rest retreated," said a United States military statement. But in the aftermath, soldiers found that civilians had been killed or wounded in the fighting. Three wounded civilians were taken to an American military base at Asadabad for treatment, and the dead were being returned to their families, the statement said.

"Our hearts go out to the families of the innocent victims of this battle," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, the operational commander of the United States-led coalition force, said in the statement. "I've directed an investigation to determine the facts in this matter."

The statement accused the rebels of endangering civilians by fighting close to areas where they live.

In a separate statement, the United States military said it had ordered an investigation of the killings of four Afghan policemen on Friday in joint operations against forces suspected of being Taliban in Kandahar Province in the south. Villagers reported that an American helicopter had fired on and killed the policemen in Sartak. Civilian casualties were also reported in the attack.

Without naming the place, the military noted an incident in a battle in which police casualties occurred, "possibly caused by friendly forces." It said, "We will review all our procedures to ensure that we continue to coordinate with our Afghan partners against our common enemy."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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