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U.S., Afghanistan Say Civilians Died In Farah Strikes

Afghan men show pieces of missiles that they say struck their village in Farah Province.
KABUL (Reuters) -- The U.S. military and the Afghan government have issued a joint statement confirming that some civilians died in a battle that included air strikes in the west of the country this week, but gave no figures.

"The joint investigation team confirms that a number of civilians were killed in the course of the fighting but is unable to determine with certainty which of those casualties were Taliban fighters and which were noncombatants because those killed are all buried," they said in the statement.

"The investigation suggests that villagers had taken refuge in a number of houses in each village. Reports also indicate that Taliban fighters deliberately forced villagers into houses from which they then attacked ANSF and coalition forces," it said, referring to Afghan National Security Forces and U.S. troops.

Provincial officials say villagers in Ganj Abad and Geraani have prepared lists with the names of 147 people killed in U.S. air strikes during the battle on May 4-5, many of them civilians who were sheltering from fighting in their homes.

U.S. military officials have suggested they believe the death toll is lower, but have so far declined to give specific estimates.

"The investigation team visited three grave sites containing seven individual graves and two mass graves with an indeterminate number of people buried in each mass grave," the statement said.

It said more information would be released when the investigation was complete.