KABUL: The US-led coalition yesterday disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in a Nato airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.
Afghan officials said an airstrike on Saturday night killed eight members of a family, but a senior Nato official said that so far, there is no evidence of any civilian casualties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
The killing of civilians by foreign forces has been a major irritant in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's relationship with his international partners. He warned earlier this month that civilian casualties could undermine a strategic partnership with the US that is to govern long-term relations after most international troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Karzai appointed a delegation to travel to Paktia province and determine what happened.
The coalition also said it was working to find out more about the operation that foreign forces were conducting in the province.
Nato also reported that one coalition service member died in a roadside bomb attack yesterday in eastern Afghanistan, and four others were killed in separate bomb attacks on Saturday in the south. The coalition did not release their nationalities or any other information about their deaths, which bring to 167 the number of Nato deaths in Afghanistan so far this year.
The British Ministry of Defence said one of its soldiers was killed Saturday in an explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj region of southern Helmand province. The nationalities of the others killed were not released.
Elsewhere Sunday, two civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Marjah district of Helmand province in the south, provincial spokesman Daud Ahmadi said.
Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said Mohammad Shafi, his wife and their six children were killed in the airstrike around 8pm in Suri Khail village of Gurda Saria district.
"Shafi was not a Taliban. He was not in any opposition group against the government. He was a villager," Samon said. "Right now, we are working on this case to find out the ages of their children."
Meanwhile, Nato forces still have a fight on their hands in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has displayed resilience although its fighters have not regained territory they lost during the decade-long war, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday.
Panetta said plans for foreign troops to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces starting in mid-2013 were on track and necessary to ensure that the Taliban is kept at bay. Afghanistan security forces have grown to around 330,000 but still lack capabilities in intelligence, air power and logistics.