- Afghanistan - terrorism
The United States expressed regret Sunday for any civilian deaths from US-led military operations in Afghanistan, without confirming reports of nearly 90 killed in one incident this week.
"We regret the loss of life among the innocent Afghanis who we are committed to protect," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said as US President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch.
He spoke after Afghan President Hamid Karzai fired two top Afghan army commanders after coalition air strikes he said killed more than 89 civilians in one of the deadliest such incidents since 2001.
"These reports are being investigated in Afghanistan and we'll look for the results of that investigation," Fratto said.
"Coalition forces take precautions to prevent the loss of civilians, unlike the Taliban and militants who target civilians and place civilians in harm's way," the spokesman said.
In a presidential decree, Karzai ordered "the immediate removal" of the top army general for western Afghanistan and a commando commander after Friday's joint Afghan and US-led coalition operation in Herat province.
General Jalandar Shah Behnam, head of the corps for western Afghanistan, and commando Major Abdul Jabar, were fired for "negligence and concealing facts," it said, giving no details.
"In the tragic air strike and irresponsible and imprecise military operation in Azizabad village in Shindand district more than 89 of our innocent countrymen, including women and children, were martyred," the statement said.
The interior ministry previously put the death toll at 76, including around 50 children and 19 women.
An official investigation has found that more than 90 civilians were killed, according to the Afghan religious affairs minister.
The coalition has insisted only 30 militants were killed.
In a separate statement earlier from Bagram airbase near Kabul, the coalition said it was "aware of allegations that the engagement in the Shindad District of Herat province Friday may have resulted in civilian casualties," and said it is looking into the incident.
If the number of dead cited by Karzai is confirmed, it would be one of the highest tolls for civilians since international troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the hardline Taliban regime.