NATO soldiers kill three Afghans at checkpoint

KABUL (AFP) – NATO soldiers in Afghanistan opened fire on a vehicle that failed to stop at a traffic control point on Monday, leaving three Afghans dead and wounding two others, an official statement said.

Soldiers from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had directed the vehicle to halt using hand gestures, flashing lights and by firing warning shots into the ground, ISAF said in a statement.

“When the vehicle still failed to stop and continued toward the ISAF personnel, the soldiers engaged it with fire,” the statement said of the incident at a checkpoint in the eastern province of Kunar.

“After receiving fire, the vehicle injured a 10-year-old boy,” it added.

Residents in the area told AFP separately that the casualties were school students aged 14 to 16 travelling in a passenger car.

The incident was being investigated with Afghan police and local leaders, ISAF said.

Foreign troops are in Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban and other militants, but in several incidents this year they have killed civilians in vehicles that failed to slow down at checkpoints.

The rising number of civilian casualties from the military effort to defeat the Taliban has raised alarm, although the insurgents, who favour suicide and roadside bombings, have killed more civilians in their attacks.

The United Nations said last month that up to 380 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting between Taliban insurgents and Afghan and international forces in the first four months of 2007.

The figures included those killed by international troops and by Taliban attacks, including suicide bombings, said Richard Bennett, the human rights chief at the UN mission in Afghanistan.

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