Kabul/Geneva --- Dozens of people, including women and children, were killed in air strikes on villages in Farah province on the evening of 4 May, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.
ICRC staff arrived in the affected area, near the village of Granai in the Bala Baluk district of the province, in the early afternoon of 5 May. Fighting between the Afghan National Army, backed up by international military forces, and the armed opposition had taken place in the area on 4 May.
The ICRC team was unable to determine the exact number of dead but their impression was that dozens of people, including women and children, had been killed. The ICRC workers were told that some of the dead had already been buried by the time they arrived on the scene. They found several volunteers of the Afghan Red Crescent Society helping in rescue efforts.
"We know that those killed included an Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed in an air strike," said the ICRC's head of delegation in Kabul, Reto Stocker. "We are deeply concerned by these events. Tribal elders in the villages called the ICRC during the fighting to report civilian casualties and ask for help. As soon as we heard of the attacks we contacted all sides to warn them that there were civilians and injured people in the area."
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Mr Stocker added that the ICRC was not in a position to know whether armed opposition fighters had been in or near the houses when the air strikes took place, as it had not been on the spot at the time. "We reiterate our concern that far too many civilians in Afghanistan are killed in incidents such as air strikes and suicide bombings," said Mr Stocker. "We will now try to learn as much as we can about exactly what happened and then raise our concerns in bilateral dialogue with the parties to the conflict."
The ICRC's head of delegation added that some people had been seen fleeing the area and that the organization was planning to provide those displaced with essential household items as soon as possible.