The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) on Friday apologized and promised a thorough investigation in the wake of two airstrikes last week which resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Afghan civilians.
A joint ISAF/USFOR-A statement said it extends its "deepest regrets and sympathies" to the families and loved ones of those who died in last week's airstrikes. "Unfortunately, the preliminary investigations into these events have determined that our actions have resulted in a number of deaths and injuries to Afghan civilians," it said.
While Afghan officials reported at least 20 civilian deaths, coalition forces have been unwilling to release casualty numbers from the airstrikes. "These are preliminary findings and the investigations are still ongoing," said Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings, Jr., an ISAF spokesman. "Once they are complete, we will brief [the President of Afghanistan] prior to putting out additional information/numbers on each."
Friday's joint statement said the coalition takes "full responsibility" for what it called "tragic and regrettable" incidents. Coalition officials are expected to meet with the family members of those who died or were injured in the coming days to apologize and express their condolences.
Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for Helmand governor Muhammad Gulab Mangal, earlier said the first incident took place on the evening of May 4 when an ISAF helicopter targeted a militant hideout in the Sangin area of Helmand province but missed and instead struck a home, killing a mother, her three daughters and two sons.
Then on May 6, a separate ISAF airstrike was carried out in the Bala Murghab district of northwestern Badghis province, killing at least fourteen civilians, according to Afghan officials.