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Amnesty International criticizes US over Afghan civilian deaths

Hajji Sharfddin 67, displayed photographs of relatives, who went missing in 2012, during US military operations in Gardez province, during a news conference in Kabul Monday,

Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Hajji Sharfddin 67, displayed photographs of relatives, who went missing in 2012, during US military operations in Gardez province, during a news conference in Kabul Monday,

KABUL — The United States failed to properly investigate civilian killings, including possible war crimes, which have occurred during its military operations in Afghanistan, the international rights group Amnesty International said Monday. NATO said it investigates all credible reports of civilian casualties, without responding to the group’s specific claims.

A toughly worded report by the group focused on 10 incidents between 2009 and 2013 that it said saw 140 civilians killed during US military operations. Amnesty said the vast majority of family members it interviewed said they had never been interviewed by US military investigators.

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Most of the incidents involved airstrikes and night raids carried out by US forces. Both tactics have sparked heated criticism from Afghan civilians and government officials who say the United States does not take enough care to prevent civilian deaths.

Two of the cases — one in Paktia province in 2010 and another in Wardak province from November 2012 to February 2013 — involved ‘‘abundant and compelling evidence of war crimes,’’ the report said.

‘‘None of the cases that we looked into — involving more than 140 civilian deaths — were prosecuted by the US military,’’ Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director, said in a statement. ‘‘Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored.’’

In a statement, NATO said it reviewed Amnesty’s report but did not comment on the specific incidents cited.

Afghan civilians increasingly find themselves under fire as the 2001 US-led war draws to a close and Afghan forces take the lead in operations targeting the Taliban. The civilian death toll in the war in Afghanistan rose 17 percent for the first half of this year, the United Nations reported in July.

The United Nations said 1,564 civilians were killed from January through June, compared with 1,342 in the first six months of 2013.

The United Nations found that Taliban fighters and other militants have been responsible for the majority of the civilian killings. Insurgents were responsible for 74 percent of the casualties, the United Nations said, while progovernment forces were responsible for 9 percent, government forces 8 percent, and foreign troops just 1 percent. The rest could not be attributed to any group.

Amnesty International said US and NATO forces have made significant strides toward preventing civilian casualties, though lingering questions over the 10 incidents it cited casts a pall over their efforts.

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