EU FMs slam NATO over 'catastrophic' strike burning to death civilians

EU ministers harshly criticised NATO after an air strike in Afghanistan that local officials said burned to death scores of civilians.

EU FMs slam NATO over 'catastrophic' strike burning to death civilians

EU ministers harshly criticised NATO on Saturday after an air strike in Afghanistan that local officials said burned to death scores of civilians.

The attack took place a day before EU foreign ministers met in Stockholm to discuss ways to boost Western invasion in Afghanistan.

Asked what more the bloc could do to improve the situation, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters:

"It is difficult to say, but mainly to work with the Afghan people and not to bomb them, not only to bomb them."

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called Friday's air strike in Kunduz province an "unacceptable catastrophe".

"It's very difficult to accept and understand why bombs should be dropped so quickly," he said.

"Dropping bombs in a country where we are there to protect the civilian population is something that should be very exceptional and what happened yesterday I can't accept."

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Fererro-Waldner called it "a great tragedy" which should be investigated immediately.

Afghan officials say scores of people were killed, many of them civilians, when a U.S. F-15 fighter jet called in by German troops struck two hijacked fuel trucks before dawn on Friday.

Bid to avert backlash

NATO commanders concerns over the incident, which happened two months after the new U.S. and NATO commander, General Stanley McChrystal, ordered "extra precautions" be taken to protect civilians before troops can fire.

Kunduz is patrolled by NATO's 4,000-strong German contingent, who are banned by Berlin from operating in combat zones in other parts of the country.

The German military has confirmed a German commander approved the air strike. The incident could feed a debate about the war, which is unpopular back home, three weeks before a German election.

Reuters
Last Mod: 05 Eylül 2009, 12:25
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