U.N. to investigate Kunduz strike

Sept. 4, 2009 at 3:41 PM

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The United Nations is sending a team to Kunduz province to look into a NATO airstrike that killed as many as 65 Taliban and dozens of civilians, officials say.

Close to 100 people were reported killed in a Friday morning airstrike in Kunduz province that targeted Taliban guerrillas who allegedly stole fuel trucks.

Peter Galbraith, the deputy U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, expressed his concern for the casualties, adding an investigative team was on its way to examine the incident.

"Steps must also be taken to examine what happened and why an airstrike was employed in circumstances where it was hard to determine with certainty that civilians were not present," he said. "The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is sending a team to look into the situation."

Provincial officials told the Pajhwok Afghan News service that Mullah Abdul Rahman, a top Taliban commander, was killed in the airstrike along with as many as 65 other Taliban fighters.

Taliban officials deny any of their forces were killed in the raid.

Local officials in Kunduz are divided on the number of civilians killed in the attack, with unofficial estimates ranging from 200 to 400 total killed.

Provincial leaders say Taliban fighters had hijacked two oil trucks transporting airplane fuel for NATO forces, beheading the drivers.

A May airstrike in Farah province killed scores of civilians, prompting U.S. and international forces to reassess their rules of engagement.

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