An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.
The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.
The reports of the strike, in a region that has become a renewed front line in the battle against the Taliban, showed the raw tensions between the United States and Afghanistan over the toll suffered by civilians in the war, and came just hours after the election of Barack Obama as the next American president.
The reports recall an assault in August in western Afghanistan that was initially disputed by the United States, in which an American gunship killed at least 30 civilians. On Wednesday, at a news conference called to congratulate Mr. Obama, President Hamid Karzai said his first request to Mr. Obama would be “to end the civilian casualties.”
The U.S. military has taken real steps to cut back on these mistaken attacks on civilians, and yet somehow they are not enough. As is typically the case with the worst of these airstrikes, the strike was called in as U.S. forces and Taliban militants were engaged in a firefight, where there is less opportunity to gather accurate intelligence about the target being hit.