KHOST, Afghanistan, Oct 5 (Reuters) Several civilians were killed in fighting between Afghan and US-led coalition forces and Taliban insurgents in southeast Afghanistan today, the US military said.
Afghan leaders have repeatedly called on the nearly 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan to do their best to avoid causing civilian casualties as it saps support for the government and the presence of international forces.
The US-led coalition and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan say they do their utmost not to kill civilians and blame the Taliban for launching attacks from within civilian compounds and from populated areas.
In the latest incident, the U.S. military said ''several non-combatants were found dead, and several others found wounded'' after a battle with insurgents in Paktika province.
Eight people were killed in the attack, said a local police official who declined to named, but he said it was unclear how many were Taliban insurgents and how many of them were civilians.
Afghan and coalition troops launched the operation to root out insurgents hiding in the Waza Khawa district, close to the border with Pakistan.
''While conducting a search of a compound in Waza Khawa district, Taliban fighters opened fire and threw several grenades at Afghan and coalition forces,'' coalition spokesman Major Chris Belcher said in a statement.
Several coalition troops were wounded.
Afghan and coalition troops responded ''with small-arms fire and precision-guided munitions'' destroying the building and ending Taliban fire from within it.
''During the follow-on assessment, coalition forces found several adult males, an adult female, and one child dead and two children wounded in the building housing the militants,'' the statement said.
''By hiding among innocent civilians, by waging a battle among women and children, the violent extremists have shown their utter disregard for the lives of the Afghan people,'' Belcher said.
REUTERS JK RK1805