KABUL - Despite President Hamid Karzai's orders for an immediate stop to nighttime raids, the NATO-led force said on Monday it would go ahead with the operations.
On Sunday, Karzai issued a final warning to NATO-led troops over civilian deaths -- hours after 14 non-combatants were killed in a new airstrike in southern Helmand province.
The fatalities resulting from a raid in Nawzad district included women and children, said the governor's spokesman Daud Ahmadi. Governor Gulab Mangal, condemning the casualties, said a team had been set up to investigate the raid. Karzai strongly denounced the latest instance of collateral damage, his office said in a statement. "The US and ISAF forces have been told repeatedly that their irresponsible operations are harming innocent and poor Afghans."
The statement added: "Although such raids trample all human and moral values, NATO-led forces seem not to heed our warnings," the president was quoted as saying.
On behalf of Afghans, Karzai issued a final warning to foreign soldiers and condemned the Helmand strike as a blunder. He directed the provincial authorities to probe the raid and compensate the victims' families.
"In order to achieve our goals, we should continue with nighttime raids" ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said at a joint press conference with NATO senior civilian representative's spokesman, Dominic Medley.
In 85 percent of the operations, not a single shot was fired, he said, adding the raids were conducted jointly with Afghan soldiers. "We respect Karzai's demand for a stop to ISAF operations, but the nighttime raids should continue to achieve our goals."
Foreign soldiers had been trying to prevent civilian fatalities, Dominic Medley said, the Taliban for 85 percent of the deaths. "Killing civilians is a tragedy for us," he remarked.
Blotz said that a joint team of Afghan police, soldiers, intelligence operatives and ISAF forces was on the ground in Helmand to probe claims of civilian deaths in a May 28 coalition airstrike in Nawzad. (Pajhwok)