Booby traps are continuing to cause problems for US and Afghan troops on day four of one of NATO’s biggest offensives against the Taliban.
Military officials say hundreds of mines have been found, slowing up progress – US marines admit they’ve been surprised by their sheer number.
The troops have also endured sporadic sniper fire in and around Marjah, the Taliban’s last stronghold in Helmand province. NATO says civilians‘ safety its top priority after twelve people, half of them children, were killed by US rockets.
Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s Interior Minister, described what happened as “unfortunate”:
“The insurgents were using a compound, which at that point our forces didn’t know whether it was occupied by the civilians”, he said.
An airstrike in neighbouring Kandahar province also killed five civilians who were mistakenly believed to have been planting roadside bombs.
NATO’s credibility rests on limiting civilian casualties as it tries to wean people away from the Taliban’s influence.
Overall Operation Moshtarak is said to be making headway with several areas cleared of insurgents.
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