PARIS, France (CNN) - French troops killed four Afghan civilians during a skirmish with Taliban fighters in early April, the French military acknowledged Thursday.
The incident marks the first time the French military has confirmed its forces have killed civilians in the 8-year-old Afghan war, said Adm. Christophe Prazuck, a French military spokesman. It happened in eastern Afghanistan's Kapisa province on April 6, when French troops fired a rocket at a group of about seven Taliban fighters, Prazuck said.
The French believed no civilians were in the area, Prazuck said. But five civilians were under a nearby tree, and four died as a result of the rocket strike. The fifth was wounded but is recovering, he said.
France is part of the U.S.-led alliance that invaded Afghanistan in 2001, after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The allies are now trying to roll back advances by the Taliban, the Islamic militia that once ruled most of the country before the attacks and allowed the al Qaeda terrorist network to operate from its territory.
But civilian deaths at the hands of the allied forces have strained ties between the coalition and Afghanistan's government and bred resentment among many Afghans. Haji Farid, an Afghan parliament member from Kapisa province, said Western troops act "very wildly" and "do not pay respect to the Afghan people."
"In the West, they have rights for animals and birds, but they are not paying respect to human beings," he said.
"We are fed up with these words," Farid added. "Why are they killing
innocent people? No one is listening to us."