The Afghan government claims that a US-led strike took 76 lives, most of them children and some women. White House officials called the statement dubious, warning against efforts to blame the US for casualties of extremist violence.
The White House on Friday reacted skeptically to the Afghan interior ministry's charge that a US-led strike in western Afghanistan had killed 76 civilians, including 50 children and 19 women.
"I would say that the United States and NATO have taken great steps to avoid any civilian loss of life. I would also caution on first reports out of Afghanistan," spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.
"Often the Taliban and extremist groups are very quick to get out there. And violence that they perpetrated, they blame on the United States or our allies," he said as President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch.
"And so I think it's very important to assess these situations, because the United States and NATO take very seriously our obligations to avoid civilian casualties," said Johndroe.
The US-led coalition in Afghanistan earlier confirmed it carried out an operation that included air strikes in the western province of Herat but said 30 Taliban rebels were killed only and said it knew of no civilian deaths.
The Afghan defense ministry meanwhile gave yet another toll -- five civilians and 25 rebels dead.
It was impossible to independently verify what happened in volatile Shindand district, but the conflicting reports highlight the difficulty in establishing facts in the mounting clashes between troops and rebels.
"Seventy-six people, all civilians and most of them women and children, were martyred during the operation by coalition forces in Shindand district of Herat province," the interior ministry said in a statement.
The dead were "19 women, seven men and the rest children all under 15 years of age," it said.
Date created : 2008-08-22