NATO forces opened fire on an official convoy "heading to an event hosted by the head of a local council" in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing a police officer and the brother of a former member of parliament, AP reported.  --  The governor of the province was in the convoy and helped with the dead and wounded, Amir Shah said.  --  "We are so angry about this," Abdul Haq Shafaq, governor of Faryab province, said, describing the dead as innocents.  --  "'While we take extraordinary care in conducting operations to avoid civilian casualties, unfortunately in this instance it appears innocent men were mistakenly targeted,' U.S. Air Force Col. James Dawkins said in a coalition statement, adding that 'we deeply regret this incident.'" ...

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NATO STRIKE ON LOCAL CONVOY KILLS 2, SAY OFFICIALS

By Amir Shah

Associated Press
December 23, 2010

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101223/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan


KABUL, Afghanistan -- A NATO helicopter opened fire on a convoy of cars heading to an event hosted by the head of a local council Thursday, killing a police officer and the brother of a lawmaker, provincial officials in northern Afghanistan said.

The chief of police, the governor, and the head of the provincial council of Faryab province all said the helicopter strafed one car in the convoy, killing a policeman and Mohammad Aminuddin, the brother of former parliament member Sarajuddin Mozafari.

Police chief Khalil Andarabi said two policemen and a civilian were also wounded in the strike.

NATO said it was investigating "the inadvertent death of two individuals and the wounding of two others" in an operation it had conducted in Faryab in an attempt to intercept suspected insurgents.  It did not mention whether the operation involved helicopters.

"While we take extraordinary care in conducting operations to avoid civilian casualties, unfortunately in this instance it appears innocent men were mistakenly targeted," U.S. Air Force Col. James Dawkins said in a coalition statement, adding that "we deeply regret this incident."

The issue of civilians killed during operations is particularly troubling for NATO and the Afghan government, and the international coalition says it is careful to avoid such casualties.  Earlier this week, a clash between NATO forces and insurgents left five civilians dead in Helmand, prompting criticism from the provincial government.

The strike in Faryab occurred on the main road about three miles (five kilometers) outside the provincial capital, Maimana, as a convoy of cars headed to a lunch hosted by the head of a local council, according to Faryab governor Abdul Haq Shafaq and the other officials involved.

Shafaq, who had been among the guests, said he had just driven by the area when he heard the helicopter firing and turned back.

"I myself helped with the body and the injured," Shafaq told The Associated Press.  He said three helicopters had been flying over the convoy, and one of them then landed and evacuated two of the injured.

Shafaq said more than 20 cars had been in the convoy.

"We are so angry about this," Shafaq said, describing the dead as innocents.  He called for an investigation into the incident by the attorney general.

Violence also struck elsewhere in the north, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up at a checkpoint in city of Kunduz, killing a police officer and wounding three civilians, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sayedkhaili said.

The attack is the second in less than a week in Kunduz -- a major agricultural and marketing center that controls one of the main highways into neighboring Tajikistan.  On Dec. 19, insurgents stormed an army recruitment center in the city, killing four Afghan soldiers and five police in a daylong gunbattle.

NATO has pressed hard against the Taliban in the movement's southern strongholds, but the surge has been accompanied by a rise in violence elsewhere in the country.

The coalition said Thursday that a joint Afghan and NATO patrol killed several insurgents the previous day in the southern province of Helmand during an operation targeting a mid-level Taliban leader involved in roadside bomb attacks.

They also reported killing a Taliban leader involved in Sunday's bus bombing in Kabul and two other insurgents in an airstrike in Ghazni province in the center of the country.

Taliban attacks to discourage Afghans from cooperating with the central government, however, have continued around the country, including in the western province of Herat where gunmen shot dead the head of the local council and his son as he drove through the Shindand district, said police spokesman Noor Khan Nikzad.

Separately, a roadside bomb struck a tractor pulling a cart loaded with passengers Wednesday, killing a child and wounding nine people in the Garm Ser district of Helmand province, said Daoud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Meanwhile, the government said urgent food and fuel aid is needed as Afghanistan's harsh winter sets in to help the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the fighting.

The aid currently being provided by national and international organizations for more than 84,000 families is "not enough at all," the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations said in a statement.