NATO troops kill nine Afghan civilians during airstrike

A NATO airstrike hit a house during a firefight between Western troops and militants, killing nine Afghans who lived there, Afghan officials said Monday.

Militants overnight fired on a NATO base in Kapisa province, just north of Kabul, and when soldiers returned fire, they hit a home, killing five women, three boys and a man, said Sayad Mohammad Dawood Hashimmi, Kapisa deputy governor.

Maj. William Mitchell, a U.S. military spokesman, said officials were looking into the incident. The NATO base in Kapisa is staffed by U.S. forces.

A deputy Interior Ministry spokesman also said nine civilians had been killed. He asked not to be identified because the ministry hadn't yet prepared a statement, the AP said.

The news of the airstrike came one day after wounded Afghans and witnesses said U.S. Marines fired on civilian cars and pedestrians after a frenzied escape from a suicide bomb and gunfire attack in eastern Afghanistan. The violence sparked angry anti-U.S. demonstrations by hundreds of Afghan men.

Up to 10 Afghans were killed and 34 were injured during Sunday's violence in Nangarhar province. A delegation of Afghan officials on Monday visited the site of the suicide bombing as part of investigation into the attack and its aftermath.

The back-to-back incidents of NATO or U.S. forces killing or wounding so many Afghans was likely to cause further grief in a country that has seen scores of civilians killed by international forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pleaded repeatedly for Western troops to take care not to harm civilians, and in December wept during a speech lamenting civilian deaths at the hands of foreign forces.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 100 Afghan civilians died as a result of NATO and coalition assaults in 2006. An AP tally, based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials, puts the overall civilian death toll in 2006 at 834, most from militant attacks.

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