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Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 13:17 UK

Taliban demand air strike inquiry

Troops inspect the site where villagers reportedly died when US jets bombed fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, at Kunduz, on 5 September 2009
Friday's air strike by US jets was called in by a German commander

The Taliban have called for a UN and human rights investigation into an air strike in Afghanistan on Friday that killed dozens of people.

The independent Afghanistan Rights Monitor group says up to 70 civilians died in the Kunduz province raid.

The Nato air strike targeted fuel tankers hijacked by the insurgents.

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says the Taliban call is a change to its usual policy of opposing all foreign involvement in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, US forces are facing new criticism from a Swedish organisation which claims US soldiers forced their way into a hospital, searching for insurgents.

Unprecedented TV appeal

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, which runs the hospital in Wardak province, south-west of Kabul, says its employees were tied up by American troops who spent two hours scouring wards.

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Aftermath of the blast in Kunduz province

The aid group says this was a clear violation of international principles and made its humanitarian task more difficult.

The prevention of civilian casualties and protection of the Afghan population forms the centrepiece of a new military strategy for Afghanistan by the commander of US forces, General Stanley McChrystal.

After the raid in the far north of the country, Gen McChrystal made an unprecedented TV appeal to the Afghan people saying he took the loss of civilian life very seriously.

'Condemn this incident'

Our correspondent says no-one disputes that many Taliban fighters were killed when the two tankers were destroyed, but estimates of the number of civilian casualties have varied widely.

The attack is bad news for us as Kunduz is already becoming the Helmand of the North

The Taliban statement said: "We urge the world human rights organisations, the United Nations authorities and other independent world bodies and governments to observe their humanitarian and ethical responsibility by condemning this incident and preventing such incidents in future."

The Taliban statement claims 150 civilians died, many of them children of families who had come to siphon fuel from the tankers.

The overnight bombing attack by an American jet was called in by a German commander, and has led to strains between the two Nato allies.

Incumbent Hamid Karzai (right) and his main presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah
Hamid Karzai (R) has extended his poll lead over Abdullah Abdullah (L)

Rear Adm Gregory J Smith, the top US and Nato spokesman in Afghanistan, said German troops should have secured the site of the air strike in its immediate aftermath and established what happened, to prevent the Taliban coming out with its own version of events.

The German military said they had feared the hijackers would use the fuel trucks for a suicide attack against its base nearby.

Speaking in Berlin on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said if any civilians died in the raid, she would "naturally deeply regret that".

Meanwhile, the latest results dribbling laboriously out from last month's Afghan presidential election showed incumbent Hamid Karzai close to the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off ballot.

With three-quarters of votes counted, he had 48.6%, followed by Abdullah Abdullah with 31.7%.

Final results are expected at the end of this month.



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