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AFP, December 18, 2009

NATO air strike kills three Afghan civilians

The civilians were in a minibus travelling just before midnight on the main southern highway when they were attacked by helicopter gunships.

KANDAHAR — A NATO air strike against suspected militants in troubled southern Afghanistan killed three civilians and wounded one other, local government and hospital officials said Friday.

The civilians were in a minibus travelling just before midnight on the main southern highway when they were attacked by helicopter gunships in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, the provincial governor's office said.

"Three male civilians have been killed and a woman has been wounded as a result of this attack," a statement read.

Their bodies were taken back to their home province of Uruzgan, the provincial health director told AFP.

"Three dead bodies were brought to us in Uruzgan today and the wounded woman has been taken by the foreign forces for treatment," Uruzgan's health director Khan Agha Miakhail said.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said they were targeting militants planting roadside bombs, and were investigating reports that civilians were killed in the strike.

"Initial operational reports indicate that men were emplacing an IED (improvised explosive device) next to the road," ISAF said in a statement.

"After firing on the men from a helicopter, ISAF forces discovered civilians in a car adjacent to the IED site."

Civilian casualties are highly sensitive in Afghanistan, where officials say it creates animosity against the Western-backed government and 113,000 NATO and US forces fighting against an escalating Taliban insurgency.

President Hamid Karzai has long called on foreign troops to avoid civilian casualties during operations against insurgents in the eight-year war against mainly Taliban militants.

Category: US-NATO - Views: 6164