Annan stresses need to protect civilians in Afghanistan

7 December 2003 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "profoundly saddened" by reports that nine children were killed in Ghazni, Afghanistan, apparently as a result of an air strike carried out by coalition forces targeting a Taliban leader.

"The Secretary-General has noted that the coalition will conduct an investigation into this tragic incident and urges that the investigation be comprehensive and that its results be made public," a UN spokesman said in a statement released in New York.

Noting that "this is not the first time innocents have been killed as a result of coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan," he urged that the findings of the investigation include measures to ensure that such tragic mistakes are not repeated.

Stressing that the protection of civilians in armed conflict is an obligation of all parties, Mr. Annan said the fight against terrorism "cannot be won at the expense of innocent lives."

Through his spokesman, the Secretary-General extended condolences to the families of the children who were killed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Annan's envoy in the country, Lakhdar Brahimi, today issued his own statement voicing "profound distress" at the news that nine children were killed Saturday in Ghazni as a result of coalition military action.

A spokesman for Mr. Brahimi said this incident "adds to the sense of insecurity and fear in the country."

He also voiced shock and dismay at the news of an explosion Saturday in a popular Kandahar market and Thursday's attack against a convoy of the Afghan Central Statistics Office. One person was killed and ten others wounded in that incident.

"These are utterly condemnable criminal acts and the perpetrators have no justification for attacking innocent people," the spokesman said, pledging that Afghanistan and its international partners "will not be deterred by these despicable acts."

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