US military probe confirms 33 civilian casualties in Afghan firefight

US military probe confirms 33 civilian casualties in Afghan firefight

KABUL: The US military in Afghanistan on Thursday revealed that its investigation into a November firefight with the Taliban in northern Kunduz province proved that as many as 33 civilians died in the raid during which US troops fired on Afghan homes.

The probe followed claims that civilian deaths resulted from airstrikes called in to support Afghan and US forces who came under fire in the province's village of Buz-e Kandahari, which targeted two senior Taliban commanders.

The statement said that the investigation "determined, regretfully, that 33 civilians were killed and 27 wounded" as troops responded to fire from "Taliban who were using civilian houses as firing positions."

After the raid, Kunduz residents carried over a dozen corpses of the dead, including children and family members of the Taliban fighters, toward a local governor's office in a show of rage.

"Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives," the statement quoted Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. "On this occasion, the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and US forces."

"I wish to assure President (Ashraf) Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians," Nicholson added. "We will continue to assist the Afghan security forces in their efforts to defend their country."

After the firefight last November, Afghan President criticised the Taliban for using women and children as "a shield" during the raid in Buz-e Kandahari. The US military statement further added that its investigation "concluded that US forces acted in self-defence" in the joint Afghan-American raid in the village.

"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 said. "In addition, four US soldiers and 11 commandos were wounded."

"It has been determined that no further action will be taken because US forces acted in self-defence and followed all applicable law and policy," the statement concluded.

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