General Kayani Apologises Over Civilian DeathsApril 17, 2010
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, made a rare public apology Saturday over the deaths of civilians during military action and issued orders to avoid further incidents.
Military and political officials initially said at least 42 militants were killed in a gunfight and air strike in the Tirah valley of northwest Khyber district, where Pakistani jets targeted local Islamist militants last Saturday.
But tribesmen said dozens of civilians were killed and the military on Saturday released a rare public apology over the deaths, in what is part of Pakistan’s lawless and semi-autonomous tribal belt neighbouring Afghanistan.
Kayani apologised to the Kukikhel tribe over the “unfortunate” incident “which resulted in loss of precious and innocent civilian lives,” the military said in a statement.
“He offered his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. The chief of army staff stated that he has ordered measures to avoid reoccurrence of such incidents in future,” it added.
Political officials had tasked a six-member committee of tribal elders from the area to report on the precise numbers of civilian casualties.
Two tribesmen on the committee told AFP that 61 civilians were killed and 21 wounded, but so far there has been no official confirmation of the numbers from either the military or the political administration.
Kayani’s statement provided no precise details on how the civilians were killed and military spokesmen were not immediately reachable for comment.
Authorities in Khyber – part of Pakistan’s tribal badlands where Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have a presence – set aside 10.5 million-rupee (125,000 dollars) compensation fund for any innocent victims killed or wounded.