Afghan children injured by UK Apache helicopter attack

Apache helicopter (library picture) Officials are now investigating the incident

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Five Afghan children were injured in a strike carried out by a British Apache attack helicopter, the Ministry of Defence has said.

They were working in a field in the Nahr-e-Saraj area of Helmand Province on Saturday as UK forces targeted an insurgent riding a motorcycle nearby.

They were taken to Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand, for treatment.

Their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

The Nato-led military coalition in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), has prioritised the reduction of civilian casualties.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "Any incident involving civilian casualties is a matter of deep regret and we take every possible measure to avoid such incidents.

"A shooting incident review is now under way and UK officials in Afghanistan are keeping the provincial governor abreast of the results of the investigation."

Civilian deaths

The Apache is understood to have fired at the insurgent with its machine gun.

Isaf said in a statement: "Isaf is currently assessing this event, and more details will be released as they become available. Coalition forces take every allegation of civilian casualties seriously."

According to a recent United Nations report, the first six months of 2011 were the deadliest for civilians in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.

The country saw 1,462 civilian deaths in January to June, a 15% increase on the same period last year. Most of the deaths were caused by roadside bombs and anti-government forces such as the Taliban.

While the total number of people killed by pro-government action fell by 9%, more people died in Nato air strikes, leaving 79 Afghans dead in the period in question.

More than half of those deaths have been attributed to the use of Apache ground attack helicopters.

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