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Afghan Residents Say Air Strikes Kill Dozens Of Civilians

(RFE/RL) August 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Residents of the Musa Qala district in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province say dozens of civilians, including women and children, were killed by coalition air strikes on August 25.

The bombings reportedly took place in the village of Koper.

One villager told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan by telephone that Taliban fighters were also killed in the air strikes. "Last night's bombings targeted two places. The first bombing, which hit a wedding party, killed 30 civilians and injured between 25 and 28 others. "

The villager said the wounded were taken to the local hospital. He also said a "second strike killed eight Taliban and wounded 10."

There is no way of independently verifying the residents' accounts.

Military Denies Knowledge Of Incident

Afghan police say they have no information about the incident.

The U.S. military says U.S.-led coalition troops were conducting an operation in the Musa Qala area and that it is making checks into the reports.

The British military, which has the largest force in Helmand, said there were no air strikes launched in the area.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive issue for President Hamid Karzai's government and for Western troops.

According to aid groups and Afghan officials, more than 350 civilians have been killed in operations by Western troops in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan says 12 suspected Taliban fighters have been killed by coalition troops in fighting along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

A coalition statement said a post of coalition and Afghan troops in Paktika Province was attacked by insurgents with rockets and mortar rounds from Pakistani territory on August 25.

It said Pakistani authorities gave permission for coalition forces to return fire with artillery.

However, AFP quotes a Pakistani military spokesman Major General Wahid Arshal as denying such permission had been given.

(with material from Reuters)

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

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