Blast after Afghan Air Strike, Scores Feared Killed
Friday, 04 September 2009

Scores of people were feared killed on Friday in a big fuel-tanker blast in northern Afghanistan that followed a NATO air strike in the area, Afghan officials said.

NATO forces confirmed that they had carried out an air strike, and said their target was insurgents. They had no immediate information about the report of the explosion and casualties.

Kunduz province Governor Mohammad Omar said as many as 90 people were feared killed, burned alive in the giant blast, which took place as villagers gathered to collect fuel from tanker trucks captured by Taliban militants.

Mohammad Sarwar, a tribal elder in the province, said Taliban fighters had hijacked the tankers and were offering fuel to a crowd of people when the crowd was bombed.

"We blame both the Taliban and the government for this," he said.

Asked about reports the blast may have been caused by NATO forces firing on fuel tankers, Captain Jon Stock, press officer for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said: "I can confirm that there was an air strike last night or early this morning."

He later added: "ISAF's target in the air raid was insurgents." However, he said he was unable to comment on the reports of the blast.

Civilian casualties from NATO strikes have caused outrage among Afghans. The new commander of NATO and US forces in the country, General Stanley McChrystal, has made curbing such casualties a main focus of his strategy.


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