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US-led air raid kills 7 Afghan civilians

Written by: Staff

ASADABAD, Afghanistan, Aug 24 (Reuters) A US-led coalition air strike killed seven Afghan civilians in an eastern province today, provincial officials said, the latest casualties in the bloodiest phase of Afghan violence since 2001.

The pre-dawn attack hit a house in the Shegal district, to the east of the capital of Kunar province, Asadabad, where village elders had gathered to settle a dispute, said two provincial officials who declined to be identified.

''Seven people, several of them village elders, were killed in the bombing and the coalition also made some arrests,'' one official said.

A spokesman for the coalition in Kabul said he did not know of the incident and was checking.

Kunar is near the border with Pakistan and the Taliban and their Islamic allies, including members of the al Qaeda network, have been active there since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

Pakistan said last week the mastermind of a plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, foiled by British police this month, was an al Qaeda member based in Afghanistan.

Civilian deaths in the war against the Taliban are highly sensitive for foreign forces and for Afghanistan's Western-backed government led by President Hamid Karzai.

The war and its disastrous impact on the economy are among the main issues undermining support for Karzai, who has led the country since shortly after the Taliban were ousted, analysts say.

Karzai last week urged foreign forces to exercise extreme caution while conducting operations against militants.

On Tuesday, NATO forces killed 11 people in the southern province of Kandahar. Residents of the area said they were civilians but NATO said they were insurgents.

Last week, provincial officials said at least 12 policemen were killed in a coalition air attack in the southeastern province of Paktika.

The coalition said those killed were believed to be militants and it was ready to assist with any investigation.

A resurgent Taliban have unleased a wave of violence this year.

About 2,000 people, most of them militants but including more than 90 foreign troops and scores of Afghan soldiers, police and civilians, have been killed since January.


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