Afghanistan's president has said seven children were killed as a result of a United States military attack. The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, however, said the operation was under the supervision of Afghan forces.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said via a statement from his office on Wednesday that an air strike had killed eight civilians - seven of them children. His version of accounts is likely to further strain the relationship between the US and Afghanistan - already tense over Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement that would agree terms on a continued US military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
"As a result of bombardment by American forces last night... in Siahgird district of Parwan province, one woman and seven children were martyred and one civilian injured," the statement from Karzai's office read.
"The Afghan government has been asking for a complete end to operations in Afghan villages for years, but American forces acting against all mutual agreements ... have once again bombarded a residential area and killed civilians."
But Karzai's account - and death toll - differed from that of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which said earlier it was "aware of reports that at least two civilians were inadvertently killed today during an Afghan-led joint operation in Ghorband (Siahgird) District."
"An enemy force engaged Afghan and coalition forces from several compounds," it said. "Afghan and coalition forces returned fire and required defensive air support to suppress the enemy fire."
ISAF said one of its soldiers was killed in the fighting and at least 10 opposition troops also died.
Siahgird district, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital Kabul, has become increasingly violent since fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban sparked in October.
Strong words from Karzai
Karzai condemned the attack "in the strongest words possible," according to the statement from his office. He has refused to sign the bilateral security agreement until the US promises not to raid Afghan homes and also help with peace negotiations with the Taliban.
The pact would see several thousand US troops remain in Afghanistan to provide training and assistance for Afghan security forces. The current NATO-led mission will end in December, and the US has attempted to ramp up pressure on Karzai by hinting it is prepared to consider the "zero option" of total troop withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Signing the agreement is also a condition for the delivery of billions of dollars in aid for Afghanistan, which will hold elections in April to choose Karzai's successor. Karzai has also said the signature of the pact should be a decision left to Afghanistan's next president.
ph/msh (Reuters, AFP)
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