NATO rocket fire killed 12 Afghan civilians on Sunday as ‘Operation Moshtarak’ continued to target Taliban strongholds.
Two missiles are said to have struck a house in error.
Thousands of US, UK and Afghan forces are involved in this major offensive. They have encountered pockets of resistance, fighting off sniper attacks as they moved deeper into Marjah. The town is seen as the lynchpin of the militants’ logistical and opium-smuggling network in Helmand province.
US Brigadier General Larry Nicholson said he thought things were going very well.
“It is only day two and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We are optimistic. We are on timeline. We have been surprised by the amount of IEDs we have found. There has been no shortage of IEDs, probably even more than we thought.”
The idea is to seize the insurgent-held areas before a planned 2011 troop drawdown. The hope is that the 100,000 or so people in the region will then welcome the Afghan administration.
One local said: “This morning when they knocked on my door to carry out a search, I saw Afghan National Army soldiers leading and Americans following them. The operation is going well. It is well planned.”
Coalition forces have so far had two casualties – one Briton and an American. News of the civilian deaths underlines the difficulties of a military mission fought in populated areas.