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NATO airstrike kills 30 Afghan civilians: Officials

A NATO airstrike killed at least 30 Afghan civilians, including women and children, in Kunduz on Thursday, officials said, after a Taliban assault there left two American soldiers dead.

The airstrike, which occurred early on Thursday, triggered emotionally-charged protests in the provincial capital, with the victims’ relatives rallying outside the governor’s office while carrying the bodies of dead children. The carnage underscores worsening insecurity after the Taliban last month overran Kunduz city for the second time in a year, as NATO-backed Afghan forces struggle to beat back the insurgents.

“Afghan forces and coalition troops conducted a joint operation against the Taliban insurgents,” said provincial spokesman Mahmood Danish. “In the bombardment 30 Afghan civilians were martyred and 25 others were wounded,” he added.  Police spokesman Mahmoodullah Akbari cited the same toll, adding that the dead included infants aged as young as three months. “They were asleep when their house came under attack by coalition troops,” Akbari said. NATO conceded on Twitter it was behind the airstrike. 

“Airstrikes were conducted in #Kunduz to defend friendly forces under fire. All civilian casualty claims will be investigated,” it said. The strike occurred on the outskirts of the city after a firefight killed two US soldiers and three Afghan special forces during an anti-Taliban operation in Kunduz. It was not immediately clear if the two incidents were related.

The firefight occurred as American soldiers were assisting Afghan troops to clear a Taliban position and disrupt the group’s operations in Kunduz, US forces said in a separate statement. “On behalf of all of US Forces - Afghanistan, today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives,” said John Nicholson, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan. 
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