A U.S. coalition airstrike and clashes with Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan earlier this week killed 37 civilians and 26 insurgents, according to an Afghan government report released Friday.
The report also accused the Taliban militants of seeking shelter near a wedding party in the Kandahar province's Shah Wali Kot district shortly after ambushing a coalition patrol on Monday, according to the findings compiled by the governor of Kandahar province.
The report said that another 27 civilians were wounded in the strike. It added that the government has already paid $2,000 to families of each victim, and $100 to those who were wounded — a standard practice in these cases.
The majority of the civilians killed were woman and children, the report said.
After the strikes and the clashes, villager Abdul Jalil, a grape farmer whose niece was getting married, told an Associated Press reporter at the scene of the bombing that U.S. troops and Taliban fighters had been fighting about a half mile from his home.
Fighter aircraft destroyed his compound and killed 37 people, Jalil said.
Karzai presses Obama
Following these deaths, President Hamid Karzai urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to help stop the killing of civilians in coalition operations, actions which undermine popular support for the Afghan government and the international mission.
On Thursday, another coalition airstrike killed seven civilians and 13 Taliban militants in the northwestern Badghis province, Afghan officials said.
Civilian casualties in operations by foreign troops have strained relations between Karzai's government and its foreign backers. Despite U.S. and NATO pledges to take greater care in targeting, the incidents have continued.
U.S. and NATO commanders often blame Taliban fighters for using civilians as human shields, thus causing civilian casualties.
The U.S. military said Thursday that civilians "reportedly attempted to leave the area, but the insurgents forced them to remain."
The statement did not say where the U.S. got that report from. It quoted Kandahar's police chief as saying several civilians were injured while attempting to leave the area.
Separately, a clash between police and the Taliban in neighboring Zabul province on Friday killed seven insurgents and wounded two policemen, said provincial deputy police chief Jalani Khan.
More than 5,300 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press based on figures provided by the Afghan government and international officials.