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NATO Admits Afghan Civilian Deaths, Probes Claims

A U.S. Blackhawk helicopter prepares to land at an army outpost in Khost Province (file photo)
The NATO-led force in Afghanistan says it accidentally killed civilians in an air strike earlier this week and is investigating separate allegations that a coalition air raid killed two more civilians.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said an air strike in the Shamal district of eastern Khost Province late on July 5 had killed "several" insurgents as well as "a number of associated family members."

Afghan officials say up to 11 civilians were killed in the air strike, which prompted angry street protests.

On June 6, hundreds of people gathered in Ghazni Province to protest the deaths of two young shepherds they said were killed in an air strike by foreign forces that same day.

ISAF said it had conducted a strike in the area but claimed it had killed one insurgent who had been planting a bomb and no one else. It said it had launched an investigation into the incident, together with the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Meanwhile, there were new reports of an air strike killing civilians in Khost Province on July 7.

Provincial police chief Mohamad Zazai said up to 13 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in "a NATO air strike on a residential house in Dowamanda district early this morning."

There was no immediate reaction from NATO.

The accidental killing of civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and has angered many ordinary Afghans.

Coalition commanders accuse Taliban and other militants of operating in close proximity to noncombatants in an effort to maximize such civilian casualties in the event of air or other military strikes.

compiled from agency reports