NATO says 3 Afghan children killed, anger mounts

Mon Sep 1, 2008 12:43pm EDT
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By Sayed Salahuddin and Sanjeev Miglani

KABUL (Reuters) - NATO-led forces said on Monday that foreign forces had accidentally killed three children in southeast Afghanistan, a toll that fuelled mounting anger over civilian casualties.

The deaths, in Paktika province, were expected to deepen the rift between foreign forces and the Afghan government, which says more than 500 civilians have been killed during operations by foreign and Afghan forces this year.

The U.S. military said earlier that U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops had killed more than 220 suspected Taliban militants in strikes in southern Afghanistan last week, the biggest insurgent toll reported in recent weeks.

In the latest incident, troops fired artillery rounds after a patrol came under fire from insurgents in Paktika's Gayan district, the International Security Assistance Force said.

The rounds fell close to a house where three children were later found dead. Seven civilians were wounded.

"ISAF deeply regrets this accident, and an investigation as to the exact circumstances of this tragic event is now under way," the ISAF said in a statement.

Several residents and a lawmaker said scores of civilians had died in the anti-Taliban operation in the Sangin district of Helmand province last week, yet another allegation of civilian deaths as fighting intensifies across the country this summer.

"There is basically no Taliban (killed). The Taliban fire and then escape and then these people (foreign troops) come and bombard. Three hundred people have been killed and wounded," said lawmaker Dad Mohammad Khan, who used to be a provincial intelligence chief.   Continued...