Ten civilians, including eight students, were killed in fighting involving international forces in the country's remote east, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday. He condemned the deaths and called for an investigation.
Civilian deaths are one of the most sensitive issues for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Although United Nations figures show far more civilians are killed by the Taliban, deaths at the hands of foreigners spark wide resentment and undermine international forces' attempts to weaken the Taliban by building trust among the peaceful population.
Karzai's brief statement said the deaths occurred Sunday in the Narang district of Kunar province. It did not give further details and other reports have been sketchy.
The provincial police chief, Gen. Khalilullah Zaiyi, told The Associated Press earlier Monday that as many as 10 militants had been killed in the district on Sunday and that investigators had been sent to the remote area to check reports that civilians were among those killed. Provincial governor Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi said late Monday that 10 civilians were killed in an operation involving coalition forces, but he did not have further details.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it had no immediate information on the reported fighting or on Karzai's statement.
Also Monday, NATO said Afghan and international forces were fighting in the country's northwest after coming under attack while attempting to secure Afghan security forces' outposts.
About 60 militants attacked the Afghan and international soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire from several locations near the Bala Murgahb district of Badghis province, which borders Iran, NATO said.
"ISAF and Afghan forces continue fighting an extended battle with small arms and mortar fire as well as precision air strikes on confirmed insurgent positions," the statement said. There were no reports of civilian casualties, the statement said, but did not specify whether there were casualties among the troops or militants.
Attack at police checkpoint
Two members of the Afghan National Police were killed when militants attacked a checkpoint in western Afghanistan, police said Monday.
Three other policemen disappeared following the attack Saturday night in the Qadis district of Badghis province, said Raouf Ahmedi, a spokesman for the national police's western district.
A joint force of Afghan and international soldiers fanned out in three districts of the province to search for militants and the missing policemen, he said.
Separately, NATO reported Monday that Afghan and international security forces captured militants Sunday night in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan and in Wardak and Khost provinces in the east.