Six civilians were killed in a US-led raid in southeastern Afghanistan, according to local officials. US military said troops were searching for a man involved in bombing operations when they came under attack and returned fire.
U.S.-led coalition troops killed three men, two children and a woman, in a raid in southeastern Afghanistan, provincial officials and village residents said on Wednesday.
They said the victims, from the families of two brothers, were all civilians, but the U.S. military said the two brothers were involved in conducting bombing operations using improvised explosive devices.
The issue of civilian casualties is a sensitive one as it undermines public support for the presence of foreign troops and the pro-Western government of President Hamid Karzai.
"We will join the jihad" and "Death to Bush", chanted residents of the village of Muqibel in the province of Khost where the incident happened overnight.
Foreign troops raided two adjacent houses belonging to two brothers and killed three men, two children and a woman from the two families, district governor Gul Qasim told Reuters.
The children, both boys no older than 10, had bullet wounds to the head and chest, a Reuters witness said.
A large angry crowd of men gathered as villagers helped the local imam wash the bodies before burial. Women could be heard screaming and wailing from inside the houses.
"I condemn this strongly," Khost province Governor Arsala Jamal told reporters. "Afghan (forces) were not involved. It was a breach of the promise by coalition troops that they would coordinate operations with us. It is a challenge for us and it alienates people."
Troops were searching the compounds for one of the brothers when they came under fire, the U.S. military said.
"Several armed militants, two of whom were barricaded in a building, opened fire on coalition forces after they entered the compound," coalition spokesman Major Chris Belcher said in a statement. "Coalition forces returned fire killing Bismullah, his brother Rahim Jan, as well as several other armed militants."
Troops discovered the bodies of a woman and a child in the buildings after the fighting, the statement said, blaming the militants for putting the woman and child in harm's way.
A son of one of the brothers said he was a member of the border police and had returned from duty for the funerals.
"I heard about it this morning and came here," said the son, Alefuddin. "I lost three members of my family and three members of my uncle's family ... they were ordinary people."
Two men were also detained during the raid, the U.S. military and residents said.
The U.S.-led coalition has about 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, separate from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), involved in anti-terror operations.
The killings came a day after two members of parliament said ISAF planes had killed more than 30 people, including civilians, in the southern province of Helmand.
ISAF denied any civilians were killed in the airstrike which it said killed around 12 Taliban insurgents travelling in three vehicles on an isolated road some distance from any houses. It was impossible to independently verify the conflicting accounts.
Date created : 2008-03-19