NATO apologises for airstrikes

The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has issued a TV apology to the Afghan people, following an airstrike that killed at least 21 civilians.

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In the video, a stern General Stanley McChrystal apologised for the strike in central Oruzgan province.

The video was broadcast nationally on Afghan television, with some watching the apology urging NATO to work harder to prevent civilian casualties.

“I have spoken with President Karzai and apologized to him and the Afghan people. I have ordered an investigation to my forces to prevent such incidents from happening again”, General McChrystal said.

“We are extremely saddened by this tragic loss of innocent lives. I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people”.

“I pledge to strengthen our efforts to regain your trust to build a brighter future for all Afghans.”

General McChrystal has already apologised once before directly to President Hamid Karzai on Sunday shortly after the incident, and the video was another sign of the military coalition’s intense public relations campaign.

Meanwhile yesterday, US Marines and Afghan ground troops pushing from the north and south of the insurgent stronghold of Marjah finally linked up after more than a week, creating a direct route across the town that allows convoys to resupply ammunition and reinforcements.

Also, two separate explosions erupted on the same day in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, leaving eight people dead and at least 16 others wounded, according to the Interior Ministry.

A police chief said explosives in a parked motorbike were detonated by remote control in front of the traffic department.

The second bombing targeted a police convoy near Jalalabad, leaving two civilians dead and two others injured, the Interior Ministry said.

No police were injured in the incident.

It comes as NATO is struggling to win public backing for the major military offensive against the Taliban in the south with a strategy that involves taking all precautions possible to protect civilians.