Afghan Civilians Said to Be Killed in an Airstrike
KABUL, Afghanistan — Ten civilians, including at least five women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Khost Province, the provincial police chief said Saturday. Five other civilians were killed, as were two Afghan National Army soldiers and two police officials, in other violence around the country on Saturday.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that it had carried out precision airstrikes against a large number of armed insurgents from the Haqqani network, Taliban allies operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“We are aware of conflicting reports of civilian casualties from local officials and are therefore reviewing the operational details of the engagement,” the force said in a statement. “Our mission is to protect the population and we will accept full responsibility if civilians were unintentionally harmed in the intense fight against the insurgents.”
Coalition forces claimed to have killed at least 17 Taliban insurgents in six operations throughout the country, including a Taliban subcommander, Mullah Abdul Razaq. The International Security Assistance Force said Mr. Razaq was suspected of involvement in a roadside bombing that killed two American soldiers in northern Kunduz Province on Wednesday. ISAF said Mr. Razaq and “a number of insurgents” were killed on a raid on their compound in the Chahar Darah District.
Thirteen of the Taliban fighters were killed in two airstrikes in the Zadran Valley, in eastern Paktika Province, according to a spokesman for the Paktika governor’s office. Only one was an Afghan, he said; the others were Pakistani or Arab insurgents.
The United States Embassy here said Saturday that the company once known as Blackwater Worldwide has been awarded a contract worth more than $120 million to protect new United States consulates in the Afghan cities of Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, The Associated Press reported.
The United States Training Center, a business unit of the former Blackwater, which is now called Xe Services, won the contract on Friday over two other American companies, Triple Canopy and DynCorps International, an embassy spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, said, according to The A.P. The one-year contract can be extended twice for three months each for a maximum of 18 months, she said.
Under the name Blackwater, the company, based in North Carolina, provided guards and services to the United States government in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but was sharply criticized for its heavy-handed tactics in those missions.
In April, five former Blackwater executives, including a past president, were indicted on federal weapons charges. Separately, the Justice Department has opened an inquiry into whether Blackwater officials sought to bribe Iraqi government officials to continue to operate in Iraq, after a 2007 shooting involving Blackwater guards in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed. The Justice Department is also appealing a decision last year to dismiss manslaughter charges that had been brought against five of the guards.