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Local Afghan officials say seven civilians, including six children, have been killed in a NATO air strike in the southern province of Kandahar.

District Governor Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi said the strike, which occurred in the Zheray district late on November 23, was aimed at Taliban fighters planting roadside mines in the area. But he said it missed its target and hit residential areas.

However, the governor's office in Kandahar said two insurgents who were planting mines were killed in an air strike, "while the three remaining fled and hid themselves among civilian houses," where ISAF forces pursued them and struck.

President Hamid Karzai "strongly condemned" the bombing.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said civilians had been killed in a firefight between militants and NATO forces in Kandahar Province.

An investigation has been launched.

The issue of civilian casualties in air strikes has fuelled tensions between the Afghan government and NATO-led forces.

compiled from agency reports

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