A NATO airstrike in southern Afganistan killed at least 33 civilians, the Afghan Interior Ministry said Monday, in the third foreign bombing raid reported in a week, forcing yet another apology Monday from the top US commander on the ground.
The killings came one day after Karzai said innocent Afghan people keep dying during offensive of NATO that argues coalition forces had made civilians' safety "their priority".
The NATO forces said in a statement civilians had been killed as they approached a joint NATO-Afghan unit in Uruzgan province on Sunday.
The president has urged international troops to try harder to prevent civilian deaths during the offensive.
In his parliament appearance, Karzai held up a picture of an 8-year-old girl who he said was the only one left to recover the bodies of her 12 relatives, all killed when two NATO rockets struck their home during the offensive in the southern town of Marjah.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said the Sunday morning airstrike hit three minibuses traveling on a major road near Uruzgan's border with central Day Kundi province. There were 42 people in the vehicles, all civilians, Bashary said.
The NATO statement did not say how many people died.
Afghan investigators on the ground earlier collected 21 bodies and two people are missing. Fourteen others were wounded, he said.
We are "extremely saddened" by the tragic loss of innocent lives, NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in the statement.
McChrystal apologized to President Hamid Karzai for the incident on Sunday, NATO said.
NATO is pushing ahead with one of its largest assaults in Afghanistan since the start of the invasion. It's also the first major ground operation since President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan.
At least 16 civilians have been killed so far during the offensive, NATO has said, though human rights groups claim the number is at least 19.
Washington is sending 30,000 more troops this year and other nations are sending some 7,000.
Related news reports:Last Mod: 22 Şubat 2010, 12:10