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Nato pilots accused of killing Afghan children
Nato pilots have been accused of killing 13 Afghan civilians, including nine children, during an attack close to the British base at Musa Kala in Helmand province. Witnesses and relatives of the dead, who were interviewed by The Independent at the town of Lashkargar, claim that on 31 July a family of 13 was attempting to flee the fighting in a rented pickup truck with three other men when an aircraft appeared overhead.
"We stopped the car," said Abdul Habib, 40. "Then the plane dropped a bomb ahead of us and went away. After a while we started driving again, but the aircraft came back. I told my wives to stand up so that the pilot would see they were women, but at that moment it opened fire."
The survivors say that the attack happened near the village of Chogra, just north of Musa Qala, where the small British garrison has been under frequent attack since June.
Nato officials said that two attacks were made on vehicles near Musa Qala on that day by Nato A-10 tankbusters. The aircraft type would tally with the survivors' accounts of the attack, which describe the aircraft firing "big bullets" or "some kind of rockets" at them. The A-10 is armed with a 30mm cannon designed for destroying armoured vehicles. One of the attacks destroyed a vehicle on the eastern side of the town, according to Nato pilot records.
Nato records indicate that both A-10 attacks were called in by spotters from the British garrison in the Musa Qala platoon house, following an attack by Taliban forces.
"These were Taliban forces withdrawing after an attack, suggesting they were not civilians," Major Toby Jackman, the Nato spokesman, said.
The vehicle that the family say they had been using was of a type often used by Taliban forces. Mr Habib suffered extensive injuries to one arm, his shoulder, back and both legs. One of his sons and another man also survived with injuries. His two wives, 27 and 25, and children, Rafar, 10, Manan, eight, Mohammed, two, Nisar Ahmed, five months, Shabiqa, 11, Gulsoma, nine, Kasima, six, Shukria, four, and Shakoofa, two months, were all killed in the attack.