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US Admits Killing 33 Afghan Civilians in ‘Self Defense’ Strike on Kunduz Village

Afghans gather in November around the bodies of people killed in a battle, in Boz-e Kandahari village, Kunduz province. (Najim Rahim / Associated Press)

The US military admitted Thursday that a joint military operation in Kunduz province, Afghanistan in early November killed 33 Afghan civilians and wounded 27 more in what Pentagon officials called an act of self defense.

The Associated Press reports US and allied Afghan forces were attacked by Taliban fighters in the village of Boz-e Kandahari while on a mission to capture two senior Taliban commanders. “To defend themselves and Afghan forces, US forces returned fire in self-defense at Taliban who were using civilian houses as firing positions,” the US military said. “As an indication of the ferocity of the fire faced by friendly forces from the Taliban-occupied houses, two US soldiers and three Afghan Army Commandos were killed,” it added. “In addition, four US soldiers and 11 commandos were wounded.”

“Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives. … I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilian,” the statement quoted General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, as saying.

The deaths occurred as US warplanes launched air strikes on villagers’ homes. Local officials said the US casualty count was too low. “More than 50 people, including women and children, were killed in the Afghan and US forces’ attack in Boz-e Kandahari,” Toryalia Kakar, a deputy provincial council member, said. Kakar urged the US to compensate victims of the attack for their dead and wounded relatives and destroyed homes and property.

US military officials said no action will be taken against those responsible for the deadly attack. “It has been determined that no further action will be taken because US forces acted in self-defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement concluded.

Civilian casualties have long caused tension between the Afghan and US governments and have bred widespread hostility toward US and allied forces that began bombing and then invading Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the United States.While the vast majority of the more than 31,000 civilian deaths during the 15-year-long US-led war in Afghanistan — the longest war in American history — have been caused by enemy forces, US-led coalition forces have killed thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. US forces have bombed schools, hospitals, wedding parties, funerals and first responders rushing to aid victims of American air strikes in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Over the past half century, US military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on Earth. According to a 2015 study, more than 1.3 million people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan during the course of the 15-year US-led war against Islamist terrorism.

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