An investigation by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has found that some 90 civilians, including 60 children, were among those killed during military operations in the strife-torn nation’s western Herat province last week.
A team of human rights officers from UNAMA went to Herat’s Shindand district to investigate reports that large numbers of civilian casualties were sustained during operations conducted by foreign and Afghan military personnel around midnight on 21 August.
They found “convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others,” that some 90 civilians were killed – including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men – and another 15 villagers wounded.
“This is a matter of grave concern to the United Nations. I have repeatedly made clear that the safety and welfare of civilians must be considered above all else during the planning and conduct of all military operations,” Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said in a statement issued today in Kabul.
According to the people interviewed by UNAMA, the military operations lasted several hours during which air strikes were called in. “The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident with some 7-8 houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others. Local residents were able to confirm the number of casualties, including names, age and gender of the victims,” the mission said.
Mr. Eide called on the international and Afghan military forces to “thoroughly review” the conduct of the operation to ensure that it does not happen again.
“The impact of such operations undermines the trust and confidence of the Afghan people in efforts to build a just, peaceful, and law-abiding State,” he stated, reminding all parties that the protection of civilians must be their primary concern.
They must respect their duties under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect the people we are here to serve,” he added.