KABUL (Reuters) - U.S.-led coalition troops, backed by air strikes, killed 28 Taliban insurgents in southwestern Afghanistan, but six to eight civilians were also killed in the operation, the provincial governor said on Monday.
Sunday’s raid was aimed at a Taliban meeting in the Khash Rud district of Nimroz province on Sunday, provincial governor Ghulam Dastagir Azad told reporters.
“The operation was carried out on the basis of a tip-off. Twenty-eight Taliban and between six to eight civilians were killed in it,” he said, without giving further details.
The U.S. military confirmed the mission, but said nothing of civilian casualties. It said the operation was aimed at disrupting militant activities in Nimroz.
The issue of civilians killed by foreign troops is a sensitive one in Afghanistan as it further undermines public support for the presence of around 71,000 international troops in the country.
In the first six months of this year, 698 civilians were killed, 255 of them by Afghan government and foreign forces. In the same period last year, a total of 430 civilians were killed, the United Nations said.
In the latest operation, U.S.-led coalition forces identified numerous militants armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, the U.S. military said in a statement.
“Multiple militant groups engaged the force in a compound and in nearby areas. Coalition forces then killed them using small-arms fire. Two additional groups of armed militants maneuvered against the force and were killed by air strikes,” it said.
A Taliban spokesman said no member of the group was killed and the casualties were civilians participating in a party.
Also in Nimroz, 15 Taliban insurgents were killed in a joint Afghan and U.S.-led forces operation after a group of insurgents attacked an Afghan police post in the Dasht-e Bakwa on Sunday, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.
Elsewhere, two Afghan soldiers were killed and three more were wounded when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Paktia on Sunday, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement issued on Monday.
Afghanistan has faced an upsurge of violence since 2006 and some Western politicians have warned it may slide back into anarchy.
According to Afghan and U.N. officials more than 13,000 people have been killed since 2006 when the Taliban regrouped to overthrow the Afghan government and drive out foreign troops.
Reporting by Mirwais Afghan; Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Alex Richardson