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U.S. Military Confirms Civilian Deaths In Afghan Air Strike

KABUL -- U.S.-led coalition troops have killed eight Afghan civilians in an air strike in the western province of Farah during a raid against suspected militants, the U.S. military said.

The acknowledgement came as reports of more civilian deaths caused by a fresh air raid by foreign forces emerged on July 16 from the neighboring province of Herat.

The air strike in Farah on July 15 was summoned after a coalition convoy came under sustained attack from machine-gun and indirect fire from a number of houses adjacent to a road in the Bakwa district of Farah, the U.S. military said.

"The coalition convoy returned fire and called for close air support on the enemy positions. A house was hit; eight civilians were killed, two others injured," it said in a statement late on July 15.

"Coalition forces never intentionally target noncombatants, and deeply regret any occurrence such as this where civilians are killed and injured as a result of insurgent activity and actions," it said.

Afghan officials said nine people, all members of the same family, were killed in the Farah bombing.

In the raid in Herat, at least four men were killed, a spokesman for the regional police command said. Witnesses said 17 people were also wounded and taken to the hospital.

The issue of civilian casualties is highly sensitive for the Western-backed government, and undermines Afghan support for the presence of foreign forces who are fighting the Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan.

There has been a sharp rise in violence in Afghanistan this year, the bloodiest since U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the hard-line Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The U.S. military says it is investigating reports by Afghan officials that around 60 civilians were killed in two separate air strikes by U.S.-led coalition forces this month in eastern Afghanistan.

More than 800 civilians have been killed since the start of 2007 in Afghanistan by foreign and Afghan forces, according to Afghan officials and the United Nations.