Hundreds of villagers in the Afghan province of Paktia staged protests on Monday following a NATO bombing on Sunday, which witnesses say struck civilians—killing seven of them, including a child, and wounding one.
The protesters brought seven dead bodies from the Udkey area of Gardez city to the capital of the province, according to Abdul Wali Sahi, deputy governor of the province.
“The local villagers claim that they were collecting firewood on a mountainside when they were hit by the airstrike. As you can see, there are children among the dead bodies,” Sahi told media outlets. “The Afghan nation is tired of such killings. We are going to seriously investigate this incident, and we strongly condemn such a killing, and whoever committed this crime must be held accountable for their action.”
Lt. Col. David Olson, a spokesperson for NATO, promptly confirmed a “precision strike” but claimed that only “enemy” combatants were killed. Officials presented no evidence to back this claim.
A report published in July by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found that civilian deaths and injuries as a result of fighting have steadily increased since 2012. Between January 1 to June 30, 2014, approximately 4,853 civilians were killed, marking a 24 percent increase over the same months in 2013.
NATO’s bombings on Sunday followed a Saturday march in Kabul protesting the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan, which was locked in for another decade by the recent signing of the bilateral security agreement. The protesters also expressed support for the people of Kobane resisting siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).