KABUL (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ NATO forces have admitted killing three women in a bungled raid on a village in Afghanistan earlier this year, after initially denying involvement.
The NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement late Sunday that its troops were responsible for the women’s deaths in a village near Gardez, the capital of eastern Paktya province, on February 12.
Two newspapers — the New York Times and Britain’s The Times — said Monday that the foreign troops involved in the shooting were members of US special forces who tried to cover up the deaths by removing bullets from the bodies.
ISAF had no immediate comment on the nationality of the troops or the cover-up claims, when contacted by AFP.
The women were in the same compound as two armed men who were killed by members of a joint international-Afghan patrol after appearing to show “hostile intent,” the military statement said.
“We deeply regret the outcome of this operation, accept responsibility for our actions that night and know that this loss will be felt forever by the families,” said ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Eric Tremblay.
“The force went to the compound based on reliable information in search of a Taliban insurgent and believed that the two men posed a threat to their personal safety.
“We now understand that the men killed were only trying to protect their families.”
Tremblay said international forces were working with their Afghan counterparts to prevent any similar future incidents.
The admission comes as NATO and US forces try to reduce civilian casualties, which are often used by Afghan politicians and the Taliban to whip up public opposition to the presence of foreign troops.
ISAF said soon after the incident that the three women were found bound and gagged but the latest statement said the claim was based on a report by troops unfamiliar with Islamic burial customs.
Investigators assessed the women were accidentally killed when the soldiers fired at the two men but no exact cause of death was given due to lack of forensic evidence.