KABUL, Afghanistan, (AP) – Airstrikes and clashes north of Kabul killed 11 people, some of whom might be civilians, Afghan officials said Sunday. In the south, five civilians died when their vehicle hit a freshly planted mine, police said.
More than 10 people were killed Saturday in the clash in Kapisa province, about 40 miles north of Kabul, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the ministry spokesman, said all those killed were “enemy” militants.
“We don’t have any civilian casualties,” he said.
However, the provincial deputy governor, Rahimullah Safi, said 11 people were killed and all were civilians. Three others were wounded after an airstrike in the village of Juibar in the restless Tagab valley, Safi said.
The spokesman for NATO, Mark Laity, said there was no record of airstrikes in the Kapisa conflict but that helicopters fired cannons at militants. Laity said NATO was still investigating but that “at present we do not believe” civilians were killed.
The airstrikes followed a clash between NATO-led troops and militants, Safi said.
“There was a report that the insurgents were meeting in the village, and foreign soldiers surrounded the area,” Safi said. “There was fighting in the village and then helicopters and fighter jets came.”
The airstrikes and clashes damaged three or four homes, he said.
“The village elders called me to say they were going to bury their dead, and ask NATO not to bomb,” Safi said.
Civilian deaths are a sore point between the Afghan government and foreign troops here. President Hamid Karzai has pleaded with the U.S. and NATO to avoid killing innocent people and undermining already tenuous popular support for his government.
Azimi told a news conference that militants use civilians as human shields and frequently force ordinary Afghans to falsely claim civilians were killed in military engagements.
Meanwhile, five Afghan civilians died Sunday when their vehicle struck a freshly planted mine close to an Afghan military base in Zhari district in southern Kandahar province, said district police Chief Bismillah Khan. Three other civilians were wounded, he said.
Khan blamed the Taliban for planting the mine. He said the victims were farmers on their way to their orchards to collect grapes.