Karzai Seeks to Ensure Civilian Safety

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 25, 2006; 6:55 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai told the U.S. commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan that "every effort" should be made to ensure the safety of civilians while fighting militants, the president's office said Thursday.

Karzai summoned Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry to his office for a meeting Wednesday, two days after a coalition attack on militants hiding in a small southern village killed dozens of militants _ but also at least 16 civilians.

Karzai expressed regret at the deaths of the civilians and said "every effort" should be made to protect innocent life, his office said.

"While the people of Afghanistan stand firmly with the international community in their effort to defeat terrorism, but it must be ensured that civilians are not affected during the operations," Karzai told Eikenberry, according to a statement.

Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. military spokesman, said Eikenberry briefed Karzai on the operation. He said the two had a "good discussion."

Karzai's office said that "terrorists" hide in civilian homes during battles, endangering the lives of civilians. He asked Afghans to try to resist Taliban efforts to hide in their homes.

Collins on Wednesday said the coalition military does "everything we can to prevent killing civilians or injuring civilians."

He said Taliban fighters hid in homes and fired on coalition forces during a battle near the village of Azizi in Kandahar province late Sunday and early Monday. He said the military had the right to return fire to protect themselves.

© 2006 The Associated Press