ISAF confirms civilian casualties in eastern Afghanistan

ISAF confirms civilian casualties in eastern Afghanistan

An operation by international and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan claimed at least four civilian casualties, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said, dpa reported

The civilian death toll from Wednesday's operation in Nangahar province appeared to be "between four and a dozen or more," according to an ISAF statement released late Thursday.

The news came days after ISAF commander General David Petraeus issued a tactical directive to increase efforts to avoid collateral deaths among Afghanistan's population.

The troops were approaching a village in Sherzad District "based on accurate intelligence that senior Taliban leadership was present" when they were fired on with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from several directions, the statement said.

In the ensuing clash, between 15 and 20 insurgents were killed, including two Taliban leaders, it said.

The troups continued to come under fire as they were retreating, which is why they called in air support, according to the military's statement.

"Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life," said Rear Admiral Greg Smith, ISAF director of communication.

"The coalition remains steadfast in its support of the Government of Afghanistan in ridding the country of this corrosive insurgency, while making every effort to reduce to a minimum loss of innocent civilian life in the course of our operations," Smith said.

ISAF would "partner with the government of Afghanistan to conduct a thorough investigation," he said.

President Hamid Karzai earlier ordered an enquiry into the deaths. The presidential palace said the victims were killed when a rocket hit their house.

Civilian victims of military operations by international forces have been the target of growing criticism by the Afghan authorities and population

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