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Afghan District Governor Killed In Combat 'Misunderstanding'

KABUL (Reuters) -- A district governor in southern Afghanistan and ally of President Hamid Karzai was killed in a "misunderstanding" involving foreign troops and Afghan security forces on September 18, the president's office said.

Ruzi Khan, the governor of Chora district and a former police chief of Oruzgan Province, was shot dead at his home, according to an Afghan aid official.

Karzai expressed his "strong sorrow" over Khan's death, which he said was due to a misunderstanding between coalition and Afghan forces. No more details were given in his statement.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force confirmed there had been an incident between foreign forces and Afghan police but also gave no more details.

Anger has mounted in Afghanistan over a spike in civilian casualties in recent weeks that has led to a rift between Karzai's government and its Western backers.

The topic was high on the agenda during a visit to Afghanistan on September 17 by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who offered his condolences for the death of civilians in coalition air strikes.

In a separate incident, a NATO force was ambushed by insurgents on September 18 in eastern Afghanistan and suffered some casualties, an alliance spokeswoman said.

The incident came a day after four U.S. soldiers and an Afghan national were killed in a roadside bomb on a highway in a southeastern area.

Violence has surged to its worst level in Afghanistan this year, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

Despite an increase in the strength of foreign troops, now numbering more than 71,000, the Al-Qaeda-backed Taliban have not only intensified attacks but extended the scope of their activities.

At least 195 foreign troops have been killed so far in 2008 in Afghanistan.