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U.S.-led coalition 'regrets' child's death in Afghanistan airstrike

By Greg Botelho and Barbara Starr, CNN
updated 11:32 PM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan calls President Karzai
  • ISAF says it "deeply regrets" a child died, 2 women were injured in an airstrike
  • A "known insurgent" was also killed in the same airstrike, the coalition says
  • Civilian casualties have been a sore subject for Afghans over the years

(CNN) -- The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said Friday that it "deeply regrets" an airstrike that, it says, killed a child.

The strike took place Thursday in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province, according to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The attack targeted "a known insurgent riding a motorbike" who was killed along with the child. Two women were also injured.

"ISAF is committed to ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent civilian casualties," the coalition said in a statement released Friday. "Coalition officials will work with Afghan officials to determine what happened and why."

U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who leads ISAF in Afghanistan, called Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday night after Karzai spoke out following the attack, a NATO official said. In addition to expressing regrets, Dunford promised a joint investigation into the incident.

There was a message on Karzai's website strongly condemning the attack and calling it another sign of disregard for civilians.

The official said the target was a Taliban sub-commander linked to the killings of Afghan troops and civilians. Two airstrikes were launched against him. The first one missed and may have caused civilian casualties, while the second killed the insurgent, according to the official.

Such attacks are a sensitive matter in Afghanistan. U.S.-led forces have maintained a presence there since soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, going after al Qaeda and Taliban fighters as a new government emerged. The attacks also have stirred animosity among some locals, given the number of civilians who have been killed, injured or otherwise affected by coalition military actions.

A vast majority of Afghan elders -- in a meeting called a loya jirga -- recently gave their approval to a new U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement that would allow American troops to remain in the south Asian nation beyond 2014, albeit in more of a support role.

But Karzai has said he won't sign the deal until some conditions are met. These include promises from the United States of no more raids on Afghan homes and that Afghan prisoners will be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Washington has resisted such changes. U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, for instance, has said what the Afghan leader is asking for are new provisions added to a deal that was already agreed upon.

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