December 30th, 2009
10:20 AM ET

Afghan panel: U.S. attack killed civilians

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - An Afghan presidential team looking into claims of civilian deaths in a weekend U.S.-led operation said Wednesday that it has confirmed 10 deaths - all of them civilians and eight of them schoolchildren.

The result of the investigation contradicts a statement by a U.S. military official that nine people were killed in the raid in eastern Afghanistan and that they were all members of an insurgent network.

The attack took place in the Narang district of Kunar province. Asadullah Wafa, a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai, said he talked to village elders, family members of the victims and the principal of a school in Narang. Among the victims were eight middle school and high school students, he said.

Wafa also said coalition forces did not coordinate the raid with provincial authorities.

The governor of Kunar, Said Fazelayallah, also has said that the raid killed civilians, and that it was launched without the knowledge of his officials.

Afghan demonstrators protested with banners and signs while shouting anti-U.S. slogans during a rally in Kabul on Wednesday, as shown in the photo above.

Wafa's findings and the governor's claims contradict a U.S. military official who told CNN on Tuesday that the dead were nine members of a network who had been tracked for a while for producing roadside bombs.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the raid was a joint operation with Afghan and U.S. forces.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that it had intelligence photos proving the dead were militants.

Civilian casualties during U.S. airstrikes against Taliban targets have strained the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States.

In the first 10 months of 2009, 2,038 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict, the United Nations said Tuesday. Of those, 70 percent were killed in insurgent attacks, and 20 percent in coalition- and Afghan army-led ones, it said.

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