A Nato airstrike killed at least 11 children yesterday during an operation targeting Taliban commanders.
At least one woman also died in the strike and more than six others were injured in the strike on a village in Shigal district in Kunar province, on the Pakistani border.
Six insurgents, including two senior Taliban leaders, were killed in the attack, the Interior Ministry said.
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The Interior Ministry did not mention any civilian casualties but Wasefullah Wasefi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said civilian homes had been hit during an air attack.
‘Eleven children and a woman were killed when an air strike hit their houses,’ Wasefi said.
Mohammad Zahir Safai, the Shigal district chief, said the woman and the children were killed when the houses collapsed on them.
A spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said they were aware of reports of civilian casualties and were assessing the incident.
He said: ‘No Isaf personnel were involved on the ground, but Isaf provided fire support from the air, killing several insurgents.
‘We are also aware of reports of several civilians injured from the engagement, but no reports of civilian deaths. Isaf takes all reports of civilian casualties seriously, and we are currently assessing the incident.
‘The air support was called in by coalition forces – not Afghans – and was used to engage insurgent forces in areas away from structures, according to our reporting.’
Tribal elder Haji Malika Jan told the BBC that fighting began early on Saturday and lasted for at least seven hours.
A Reuters journalist said they saw the bodies of 11 children when they were taken to Safai’s office in protest by their families and other villagers on Sunday.
The journalist did not see the body of a women and Safai said residents told him of the death. Women’s bodies are not displayed, according to custom.
Wasefi also said an American civilian adviser to the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, had also been killed in the operation. He said it had lasted several hours.
The Ministry of Interior said the two dead Taliban commanders, Ali Khan and Gul Raouf, planned and organised attacks in Kunar.
Civilian deaths have been a long-running source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who banned Afghan troops from calling for air strikes.
About ten women and children were killed in February last year in a Nato air strike in the same area of Afghanistan.
The deaths came on the same day that a car bomb killed five Americans, including three U.S. soldiers, a young diplomat and a U.S. Defence Department contractor, in the southern province of Zabul.