Following the deaths of 18 Afghan civilians from U.S. airstrikes, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan apologized on Friday, reports the Associated Press. This is the first confirmation by military officials that civilians had indeed been killed in this latest airstrike.
“I know that no apology can bring back the lives of the children or the people who perished in this tragedy and this accident, but I want you to know that you have my apology and we will do the right thing by the families,” Marine Gen. John Allen told Afghans gathered at a base in Pul-i-Alam, the capital of the Logar province, according to the AP.
NATO officials said the strike came after the troops attempted to capture a Taliban leader and came under fire. Since a wedding had taken place a night before, the house was full of visiting families, villagers said. Among the dead were nine children. Allen said troops did not know there were civilians in the house when they called for an airstrike.
“They were taken under fire. A hand grenade was thrown,” he said. “Three of our people were wounded. We called for the people who were shooting to come out and then the situation became more grave and innocent people were killed.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the U.S. for nighttime raids before, saying they put civilians in danger.