US marines kill 4-year-old boy in Afghanistan because "they thought he was the enemy"
US marines based in Helmand province shot a 4-year-old boy because "visibility was poor", "the weather was dusty" and they "thought he was the enemy".
Afghan officials said on Friday that the boy had been accidently shot and killed in the latest violent incident to strain ties between the uneasy allies.
The Afghan-US relationship has been damaged by President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security deal that would allow for a US military presence after the withdrawal of most foreign troops this year.
The US has said its troops cannot remain without a deal in place. Their complete departure would leave Afghan security forces on their own to fight the Taliban.
Karzai is demanding that the US end all unilateral military operations on Afghan territory – among other things – before the pact is signed, because they cause avoidable civilian deaths.
"We have called … for an absolute end to Isaf/Nato military operations on homes and villages in order to avoid such killings where innocent children or civilians are the victims," the president's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said when commenting on the death of the boy.
The International Security Assistance force (Isaf) is Afghanistan's Nato-led force. It is dominated by US troops.
A spokesman for the governor of the southern province of Helmand told Reuters that US marines based in the province mistakenly shot the boy on Wednesday because visibility was poor.
"As the weather was dusty, the marine forces based there thought he was an enemy and opened fire. As result of mistaken fire, he was killed," the spokesman, Omar Zwak, said by telephone.
A spokesman for the Nato-led force said the matter would be investigated and that all possible measures were taken to avoid civilian casualties.
A separate Nato statement confirmed the "aircraft mishap" in eastern Afghanistan early on Friday but provided no details of the accident, or the names and nationalities of those killed.
Friday's deaths push the number of Nato troops killed in Afghanistan this year to four. One service member was killed in a suicide attack on 4 January, also in eastern Afghanistan, and another on 1 January.
"At this time, there are no indications of enemy involvement in the cause of the aircraft mishap," the force said.