NATO Force Looks Into Claims of Afghan Civilian Casualties

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Agence France Presse

NATO Force Looks Into Claims of Afghan Civilian Casualties

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KABUL - The NATO-led force in Afghanistan said Tuesday it was looking into claims that civilians were among the dead after a bombardment that the defence ministry said killed 12 "enemies".1023 04

But the International Security Assistance Force had received no reports from its own sources of any civilian casualties after the bombing raid on Monday 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Kabul, an ISAF spokesman said.

The Afghan defence ministry said in a statement that "12 enemies of the people were killed" in the strike near Jalrez town in Wardak province.

The statement made no mention of civilian casualties but an Afghan military commander from the province, Zalmai Khan, said separately that only three civilians were injured. "We are not aware of any civilians killed," he said.

However the head of the Wardak provincial council, Haji Janan, said 13 villagers were killed, including 11 from the same family.

"There is an emergency meeting at the provincial headquarters and we may send a delegation down to the area for an assessment," he told AFP.

ISAF had people in the area talking to villagers "to make sure there were no civilian casualties," spokesman Major Charles Anthony said.

"As of this moment we don't have reports of civilian casualties," he said.

The bombing raid was called in against a large group of "anti-government militants who we were able to spot setting an ambush," he said.

An ISAF patrol was ambushed in the same area on October 15 and 12 soldiers were wounded. An airstrike called in afterwards killed five Taliban, Afghan officials said.

Some said three civilians were also killed but this was rejected by ISAF.

The lines in the battle between security forces and insurgents in Afghanistan are often blurred with fighters living and operating among villagers.

ISAF and the other international force here, the US-led coalition, have been accused of killing hundreds of civilians in their pursuit of rebels including the Taliban whose regime was ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

The extremist insurgents have killed hundreds more in suicide attacks that are aimed at security forces but end up killing more civilians.

© 2007 Agence France Presse

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