Civilians Feared Killed In NATO Strike In Afghanistan The aerial attack on two fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban militants sparked a huge blast, killing at least 60 people and wounding 30 others — including suspected Taliban fighters and civilians. The trucks, which were delivering fuel to NATO forces, had been seized at a river crossing in northern Afghanistan.

Civilians Feared Killed In NATO Strike In Afghanistan

Afghan security forces patrolled the site of a NATO airstrike Friday that destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban near the village of Omar Khel in Kunduz province. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
AFP/Getty Images

Afghan security forces patrolled the site of a NATO airstrike Friday that destroyed two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban near the village of Omar Khel in Kunduz province.

AFP/Getty Images

Local Afghans bury villagers killed by the NATO strike in a mass grave. Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar said a local Taliban commander and four Chechen fighters were among the dead. AP hide caption

toggle caption
AP

Local Afghans bury villagers killed by the NATO strike in a mass grave. Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar said a local Taliban commander and four Chechen fighters were among the dead.

AP

A NATO warplane killed at least 60 people and wounded 30 others — including suspected Taliban fighters and civilians — during an airstrike Friday in northern Afghanistan, local officials said.

The overnight strike targeted two fuel tankers that had been hijacked by Taliban militants in the northern province of Kunduz. The trucks were en route to Kabul from neighboring Tajikistan to deliver fuel to NATO forces when they were commandeered.

The Taliban drove the tankers some three miles off the main highway before getting stuck in a riverbed. Hours later, they enlisted the help of locals to unload the fuel. That's when a U.S. warplane arrived and fired on the tankers, creating a massive fireball.

Local authorities said a senior Taliban commander and four Chechen fighters were among those killed in the airstrike. Reports said an undetermined number of civilians who had rushed to the scene to collect fuel were also killed.

NATO officials maintained that there were no civilians in the area during the attack, which happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time. However, alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen later acknowledged that some civilians may have been killed. NATO officials are investigating.

President Hamid Karzai expressed concern about reports of civilian deaths. He has dispatched a team of police and intelligence agents to the scene to investigate the incident, according to a prepared statement released by his office.

Kunduz province, a former Taliban stronghold, had been generally peaceful until insurgent attacks began increasing earlier this year — possibly because the area lies on a smuggling route from Tajikistan. Most of the fighting in Afghanistan this summer has occurred in the south and east, where U.S. and British forces operate. The German military is responsible for security in Kunduz, and its forces called in the airstrike.

The attack is likely to intensify public anger in Afghanistan over NATO strikes that have killed civilians. Earlier this summer, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, ordered curbs on airstrikes where civilians are at risk.

His order mandated that aircraft are not supposed to fire unless they are sure there is no chance civilians can be hurt or are responding to an immediate threat.

Faced with increasing violence in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that he would consider asking for more troops and resources — despite declining support for the war in the U.S.

President Obama ordered an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan this spring, shifting the focus of the war on Islamist extremism away from Iraq. Last month, 51 U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan, making August the deadliest month for American forces there since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

Also Friday, a French soldier was killed and nine others were wounded when their convoy was hit by a bomb near Bagram Airfield north of Kabul.

From NPR staff and wire reports