Afghan family killed in Western raid, official says

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PUL-I-ALAM, Afghanistan, Oct 23 (Reuters) Eleven members of an Afghan family have been killed in an air strike by Western forces near Kabul, the head of a provincial council said today.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan fuel resentment of foreign forces and the Western-backed government of Hamid Karzai who has repeatedly beseeched US and NATO troops to do everything they can to stop the accidental deaths of civilians.

The latest incident occurred yesterday in Jalrez, 30 km west of the capital, provincial council leader Haji Janan told a Reuters reporter in the region.

''In the bombardment ... 11 people from one family, including women and children were killed,'' Janan said.

''The only survivor from the family is a man who is hospitalised and can't speak,'' he said. Eleven of the family's neighbours were wounded, he said.

NATO said it had carried out an air raid against militants in a remote area of Wardak killing a number of insurgents.

Preliminary indications showed there were no civilian casualties, an alliance spokesman said. NATO was checking media reports that non-combatants had been killed, he said.

The resurgent Taliban have infiltrated into Wardak in recent months and have been launching regular attacks on Afghan forces, and sometimes on Western troops.

Violence in Afghanistan has increased sharply in the past two years, the bloodiest period since Taliban's removal in 2001.

According to figures supplied by the United Nations, Afghan officials and foreign forces, more than 7,000 people have been killed in the past two years, many of them insurgents but including hundreds of civilians.

More than 370 civilians have been killed this year during operations by Western forces against militants, according to estimates by aid workers and Afghan officials.

Western forces dispute such estimates but say some civilians have been killed, most when the Taliban attack from civilians' houses, thinking Western troops won't retaliate.

Faced with criticism over rampant corruption, insecurity, booming drugs cultivation and perceived lack of development, Karzai has warned that civilian deaths would be risky for his government and the presence of foreign troops in the country.

REUTERS SZ KP1421

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