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Air strike kills 25 Afghan civilians

By Xinhua

Kabul : An air strike by international forces killed 25 Afghan civilians and about 20 Taliban militants in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan early Friday morning, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said.

Some Taliban militants ambushed a convoy of foreign troops in Gereshk district at 1:30 a.m. local time, Andiwal said. The troops requested air support, which dropped several bombs and caused the casualties, he said, adding there were nine women and three children among the civilians.

Meanwhile, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it had carried out the air strike in Gereshk. In a statement, ISAF said its soldiers killed nearly 30 militants and may have caused some civilian casualties in the engagement.

ISAF forces were attacked by insurgents first, and responded with small arms fire and an air strike, the statement said. "A compound was assessed to have been occupied by up to 30 insurgent fighters, most of whom were killed in the engagement," it added.

ISAF troops are now investigating reports that a small number of civilians may also have been in the compound, the statement said.

ISAF blamed Taliban militants for the possible civilian casualties as they deliberately mingled themselves with civilians.

About 37,000 ISAF forces are currently deployed in Afghanistan to hunt down militants and safeguard security.

Due to rising Taliban-linked insurgency, about 300 civilians have been killed, either by insurgents or international troops, in this volatile country this year.