By Jonathon Burch
KABUL - Afghanistan condemned on Friday the killing of civilians in a raid by Australian soldiers in the south of the country which it says was not coordinated with Afghan forces.
The Australian Defence Force said five children had been killed in a shootout between Taliban insurgents and Australian Special Forces in southern Uruzgan province on Thursday, where they were "clearing" a number of compounds.
The Afghan Defence Ministry said one woman and two children were killed and eight other people wounded in the attack.
"The Defence Ministry condemns the martyring of one woman and two children and the wounding of eight others ... in an operation by international forces ... and asks international forces not to conduct operations without the coordination of Afghan forces," the ministry said in a statement.
The commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under which Australian troops operate issued a directive last September saying his soldiers should not enter an Afghan house or mosque uninvited without having the lead from the Afghan army unless troops were in "clear danger".
The directive also said ISAF troops should retreat if they were able and there was a risk of civilian casualties.
The body of Afghan child who was killed with his brother and father named Nurullah by U.S-led troops in Kabul early September 1, 2008.
The Australian Defence Force said its soldiers acted in "accordance with their rules of engagement", after they came under fire from Taliban insurgents but did not say whether Afghan troops were involved in Thursday's operation.
The operation, ISAF said in a statement, was conducted by both ISAF and Afghan forces but a spokesman for the alliance did not know which of the two forces had led the raid.
Raids by foreign forces on homes and mosques are a major source of resentment against international soldiers in Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly asked military commanders to leave house searches to Afghan troops.
Australia, which has around 1,100 troops in Afghanistan, mainly in Uruzgan province where the Taliban has a strong presence, said it has started an inquiry into the incident.
The issue of civilian casualties is sensitive in Afghanistan, and has eroded public support for Karzai's government and for the presence of some 70,000 foreign soldiers fighting Taliban militants in the country.
More than 2,100 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008, a 40 percent rise on the previous year. Nearly 700 of them were killed by international and Afghan forces, according to the United Nations. (Additional reporting by James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Jerry Norton)