US-led forces kill '76 Afghan civilians'

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The Independent US

US-led coalition forces killed 76 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan on Friday, most of them children, the Interior Ministry said.

The coalition denied killing civilians. Civilian deaths in military operations have become an emotive issue among Afghans, many of whom feel international forces take too little care when launching air strikes, undermining support for their presence.

"Seventy-six civilians, most of them women and children, were martyred today in a coalition forces operation in Herat province," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Coalition forces bombarded the Azizabad area of Shindand district in Herat province on Friday afternoon, the ministry said. Nineteen of the victims were women, seven of them men and the rest children under the age of 15, it said.

US-led coalition forces denied killing any civilians. They said 30 militants had been killed in an air strike in Shindand district in the early hours of Friday and no further air strikes had been launched in the area later in the day.

Air strikes were called between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. after Afghan and coalition soldiers were ambushed by insurgents while on a patrol targeting a known Taliban commander in Herat, the U.S. military said in a statement.

"Insurgents engaged the soldiers from multiple points within the compound using small-arms and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) fire," it said. "The joint forces responded with small-arms fire and an air strike killing 30 militants."

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