Karzai slams Afghan deaths after raid on US force

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KABUL, Mar 5 (Reuters) Afghan President Hamid Karzai today condemned the deaths of 10 civilians shot by US troops after an attack on their convoy over the weekend.

The US military said its troops withstood a ''complex'' Taliban ambush involving a suicide attack and militant gunfire in a populated area outside the eastern city of Jalalabad yesterday.

It said the soldiers fired in self defence and 16 civilians were killed in the suicide attack and subsequent firing.

No provincial or central government official has confirmed the US military's account that the convoy came under rebel fire. The killing of civilians by NATO and US troops is undermining public support of the foreign mission here, analysts say.

Two provincial government officials yesterday said 10 civilians were killed and more than 25 wounded in firing by the US soldiers fleeing as they fled the site of the attack.

''Karzai strongly condemned the incident that took place,'' the palace said in a statement.

Karzai has ordered an inquiry, but previous such investigations by NATO and the Afghan government have done nothing more than confirm witness accounts that those killed were civilians.

The Taliban have threatened an offensive in coming weeks after the bloodiest year since their 2001 ouster. Mor than 4,000 people died last year, a quarter of them civilians and dozens of those killed by foreign troops, mainly in air raids.

Reuters AKJ DB1234

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