US air-strike kills 12 Afghan civilians-governor

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JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Nov 28 (Reuters) US air-strikes killed 12 civilian road workers in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said today, an incident bound to fuel Afghan resentment against the presence of international forces.

NATO has tightened procedures for launching air-strikes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned of rising anger over mounting civilian casualties, but military commanders say some civilian deaths are almost inevitable in any conflict.

Foreign forces have a limited time to weaken Taliban rebels and allow development to undercut the insurgency before Afghan resentment turns against them and Western public opinion demands troops be brought home, security analysts say.

''So far we know that 12 people have been killed by US bombardment,'' Tameem Nooristani, governor of the eastern province of Nooristan, told Reuters. ''They were only poor and innocent road construction workers.'' US troops had been tipped off that a feared local Taliban commander was in the area, he said, but hit the wrong target.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed there had been fighting in the area on Tuesday, but said no air-strikes had been launched.

''We had one military engagement there yesterday, but no air-strikes were involved,'' ISAF spokesman Major Charles Anthony said. Most ISAF troops in eastern Afghanistan are American.

The head of the Afghan road construction company said 25 of its workers were killed in the incident. Nineteen bodies were brought to a hospital in the eastern city of Jalalabad, a doctor there said.

It was not possible to independently verify the incident due to the danger and remoteness of the area.

Afghanistan has seen a steady rise in violence since the Taliban relaunched their insurgency to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and eject more than 50,00 foreign troops two years ago.

REUTERS SW DS1331

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