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Clinton regrets death of civilians in NATO airstrike in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, June 1 (KUNA) -- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her regret on Wednesday over the death of civilians during a NATO airstrike in Afghanistan while affirming that the international coalition will continue its efforts to root out insurgents.
"US and international military forces have in the past and continue to place the highest priority on protecting civilian lives. And certainly, it is the goal of the military efforts to root out the insurgents who are responsible for the vast majority of civilian injuries and deaths", said Clinton after meeting with Brazilian foreign minister Antonio De Aguiar Patriota.
"We recognize that in a complex military environment, it is just a tragic fact that some civilian casualties may be inevitable and unavoidable. But we are very concerned any time there is any civilian casualty caused by the NATO ISAF military mission, and every single one of the issues or events that is brought to the attention of the military command is investigated thoroughly", she added.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is imposing additional restrictions on NATO forces, mainly not allowing them to target civilian homes, after a May 28 airstrike left at least nine people dead in Helmand province.
Clinton noted that US Commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus "has consistently emphasized that we have to do everything in our power to reduce the number of civilian casualties and we are seeing a steady increase of Afghan lead, through their army and security forces, on any night raids, and procedures are being put into place in preparation for a transition to greater Afghan responsibility to ensure that such operations are properly authorized and approved by senior representatives of the government of Afghanistan". "We are going to continue to do everything we can to express our deep regret when a terrible incident occurs and civilians are injured or killed, and I would only underscore that that stands in stark contrast to the indiscriminate killing, the suicide bombing, the improvised explosive devices that are used by the insurgents without regard for any human life", she added.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates also addressed this issue, he was quoted by media during his trip to Hawaii saying that Karzai "is reflecting the pain and suffering that the Afghan people have had to endure" and added that Karzai "recognizes, and the Afghan people do, that we are their ally, we are their friend and we are trying to help them develop their capability to protect themselves. (end) jm.gb KUNA 012120 Jun 11NNNN