The Associated Press, April 13, 2009

NATO operation killed six civilians in Kunar province of Afghanistan

He said four members of one family died, including an eight-year-old boy, and two people in other families were killed, including a 3-year-old girl.

A NATO operation killed six civilians Monday, including a woman and a young girl, in a mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan, villagers and officials said. But the military alliance said its force killed four to eight "militants."

Bagram Air Base

Bagram Air Base
Wounded Afghans seen in Asadabad the provincial capital of Kunar province, east of Kabul, Monday, April 13, 2009. (Photos: AP)

The governor of Kunar province, Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi, said four men also died in the NATO air strikes. Five houses were damaged, and one was demolished, Wahidi and villagers said.

Reports indicated there were foreign militants around the village, including al-Qaida agents, but Wahidi said all those killed were civilians.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said "four to eight enemy fighters" were killed and intelligence intercepts indicated "the hostile intent of the enemy to attack ISAF posts." Still, a spokesman said it was possible civilians were wounded.

"We deeply regret any possible civilian injuries caused by our operations against the enemy," said Captain Mark Durkin, ISAF's spokesman. "We will thoroughly investigate the allegations of civilian injuries and, if found true, provide assistance to support the law-abiding people affected."

Earlier, a spokesman said NATO officials were investigating reports of civilian deaths.

A man who said he was a cousin of some of the victims, Haji Matinullah, said warplanes appeared above the village of Sangar around 3 a.m. and unleashed bombs. He said four members of one family died, including an eight-year-old boy, and two people in other families were killed, including a 3-year-old girl.

Sixteen people were wounded, he said.

Four of the wounded, three men and a woman, were taken to a hospital in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, said Asadullah Fazli, Kunar's chief of public health. One of the four was then taken to a U.S. medical facility at the American base at Bagram.

Civilian deaths caused by U.S. or NATO forces have long been a sore point for President Hamid Karzai, who has pleaded repeatedly with international forces to avoid civilian casualties.

Because of the remote and dangerous regions most operations happen in, it is almost impossible for journalists and human rights workers to verify villager claims. Taliban fighters have been known to coerce Afghans into falsely claiming that civilians were killed, but the U.S. has also been slow to acknowledge when its operations kill innocent Afghans.

The latest allegation of civilian deaths comes less than a week after the U.S. military admitted that a mission in Khost province killed five civilians, including two females and an infant.

Thirty other people were killed around the country in military operations and roadside bombs, officials said. Among the biggest incidents:

- U.S. air strikes killed seven militants in Wardak province after they attacked an American patrol Saturday, the U.S. military said. There were no American casualties in the clash, which happened in Sayed Abad district, it said.

- Afghan and international forces killed nine militants Sunday in a gunbattle in Uruzgan province, the Ministry of Defence said.

- A roadside bomb killed four Afghan civilians Monday in Herat, the Ministry of Interior said. The spike in violence comes as the United States prepares to send 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan. President Barack Obama ordered the troop deployments to help fight a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

There are roughly 70,000 international forces in Afghanistan, including a record 38,000 Americans.

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