NATO airstrike kills 10 children in Afghanistan

Updated 08 April 2013

NATO airstrike kills 10 children in Afghanistan

KABUL: A NATO airstrike killed 11 Afghan civilians, including 10 children, during a fierce weekend gun battle with Taleban militants that also left one US civilian adviser dead in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said yesterday.
The US-led coalition confirmed that airstrikes were called in by international forces during the Afghan-led operation in a remote area of Kunar province near the Pakistan border. The coalition said it was aware of reports that civilians were killed, but had no immediate information about their deaths.
The death of Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire of battle has been a major point of contention between international forces and the Afghan government, prompting President Hamid Karzai to ban his troops from requesting airstrikes earlier this year.
Wasifullah Wasify, a government official in Kunar province, said the airstrike on Saturday targeted a house and killed 10 children and one woman inside. He said seven Taleban suspects also were killed and five other women were wounded inside the house.
The airstrike occurred after a joint US-Afghan force faced hours of heavy gunfire from militants after launching an operation targeting a senior Taleban leader late Friday in the Shultan area of Kunar’s Shigal district, according to tribal elder Gul Pasha, who also is the chief of the local council in Shultan.
“In the morning after sunrise, planes appeared in the sky and airstrikes started and continued until evening,” he said in a telephone interview.
He said the main suspect was in the house that was hit and the woman and children, ages 1 to 12, who were killed were members of his family.
“I don’t think that they knew that all these children and women were in the house because they were under attack from the house and they were shooting at the house,” he said.
The US-led coalition said it provided fire support from the air, killing several insurgents.
“The air support was called in by coalition forces, not Afghan security forces, and was used to engage insurgent forces in areas away from structures, according to our reporting,” coalition spokesman Maj. Adam Wojack said in a statement.
He said the International Security Assistance Force takes all reports of civilian casualties seriously, and was currently assessing the incident.
Afghan forces have been increasingly taking the lead in combat operations as international forces move to complete their withdrawal by the end of 2014. But US and other foreign troops still face dangers even as Afghans take charge of their own security.
The American adviser who died during the operation was one of three US civilians killed Saturday. The two others — a female foreign service officer with the US State Department and an employee with the US Defense Department — were killed in a suicide bombing in southern Zabul province during a trip to donate books to Afghan students. Three US soldiers also were killed in that attack.

Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for US-led forces in Afghanistan, provided new details about the adviser’s death Sunday, saying he was killed during the fighting in Kunar province.
The two-day operation was launched Friday after a tip that dozens of Taleban were concentrated in an area in the Shigal district, Wasify said.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said six Taleban militants were killed in the operation in Sano Dara Sheltan village, including two senior commanders identified as Ali Khan and Gul Raof, the main planner and organizer of attacks in the area.
Wasify initially put the casualty toll at 11 Taleban militants killed, and four Afghan security forces, six civilians and 10 Taleban militants wounded. But he later lowered the toll to seven Taleban militants killed.
The different figures could not be immediately reconciled, but the governor has sent a fact-finding delegation to the area to get more details.
US Secretary of State John Kerry mourned the death of the foreign service officer killed in the bombing — the first death of an American diplomat on the job since last year’s Sept. 11 attack on the US diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya.
Kerry called the death of Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old native of Illinois, a “grim reminder” of the danger facing American foreign service workers serving overseas.


Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

Updated 16 September 2019

Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

  • Invitation extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited US President Donald Trump to Pyongyang in his latest letter to the American head of state,  South Korea’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“I heard detailed explanations from US officials that there was such a letter a while ago,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told a  parliamentary session. “But I’m not in a position to confirm what’s in the letter or when it was delivered.”

The foreign minister’s remarks followed reports by a local newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which said that Kim’s invitation was extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15.

If true, the invitation was made as diplomats of the two governments were in a tug-of-war over the resumption of working-level talks for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

During a surprise meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, Trump and Kim pledged that working-level nuclear disarmament talks would resume within a month, but no such talks have been held,  with both sides indulging in a blame game instead.

“We are very curious about the background of the American top  diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” North Korea’s first vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Aug. 30 in a statement carried by the North’s official Central News Agency (KCNA). He was referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments terming Pyongyang’s rocket launches as “rogue.”

However, the tone has changed significantly with the communist state recently offering to return to dialogue with Washington “at a time and place agreed late in September.”

“I want to believe that the US side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Choe said on Aug. 30.

On Monday, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level denuclearization talks will likely take place “in a few weeks” but demanded security guarantees and sanctions’ relief as prerequisites.

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our  development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said. 

HIGHLIGHT

It’s not clear whether the US president has responded to the invitation, thought he has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was upbeat about the early resumption of nuclear talks.

“North Korea-US working-level dialogue will resume soon,” he said, citing an “unchanged commitment” to trust and peace by the leaders of both Koreas and the US. 

The working-level meeting will serve as a “force to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.

Moon is scheduled to meet Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.

“It will be an opportunity to share opinions and gather wisdom with Trump on the direction of further development of South Korea-US  relations,” he said.

The White House offered no immediate comment.

It’s not clear whether Trump responded to Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, but the US commander-in-chief has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator, who oversaw the test-firings of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple launch rockets more than half a dozen times since late July.

While none of the projectiles are a direct threat to the US continent they still pose threats to US and its allied forces in South Korea and Japan.

“Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think,” Trump told reporters on August 24 before flying off to meet with world leaders at the G7 in France. “And we’re going to see what’s going on. We’re going to see what’s happening. He likes testing missiles.”

Experts say the apparent firing of US National Security Adviser John Bolton has also boosted chances of fresh negotiations with the North, which had long criticized him for his hawkish approach toward the regime.

“The displacement of a ‘bad guy’ could be construed as a negotiating tactic to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate of nuclear talks. It’s a show of a will to engage the counterpart in a friendlier manner from the perspective of negotiation science,” Park Sang-ki, an adjunct professor at the department of business management at Sejong University in Seoul, told Arab News.