French military says troops killed 4 Afghan civilians by mistake

PARIS (AP) — Embattled French troops mistakenly killed four Afghan civilians and seriously wounded one during a clash with insurgents east of Kabul, the French military said Thursday after concluding an investigation into the bloodshed.

The incident occurred on April 6 as a section of French Mountaineer Brigade troops were fighting insurgents in Bedraou, a section of the strategic Tagab Valley in the foothills of the Hindu Kush just 30 miles (45 kilometers) of the capital, the military said.

During the prolonged fight, French observer troops spotted a group of seven insurgents hiding behind a wall to prepare an ambush, said Adm. Christophe Prazuck, the French military spokesman.

"There were no civilians visible around, so they got clearance to shoot," Prazuck said on the telephone. But it turned out that five young men, civilians, were huddling undetected under trees nearby, he said. Four died from shrapnel from the surface-to-surface missile that French troops fired, Prazuck said. One young man is recovering at a Kabul hospital, he said.

Families are being compensated in cash and other benefits according to NATO policies in Afghanistan, he said.

France is the fourth-largest NATO contributor to the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, with more than 3,000 troops stationed mostly in the east of the country.