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Afghan Officials Say 25 Civilians Killed in NATO Airstrike

22 June 2007

An Afghan police chief says 25 civilians, including women and children, have been killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Helmand province.

Provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal says Taleban forces staged an attack late Thursday in Gereshk district against NATO forces, sparking clashes and airstrikes. The police chief said among the dead are nine women, three children and 20 suspected Taleban insurgents.

NATO spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Smith says the alliance is concerned about reports of civilian deaths, but blamed the Taleban, saying militants initiated the violence.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said NATO and the separate U.S.-led coalition must do more to stop the killing of civilians during military operations against insurgents.

This week, a coalition of Afghan and western aid agencies said 230 civilians have been killed this year alone, caught up in the crossfire of military operations by international forces in Afghanistan.

NATO officials have said they are examining ways to prevent civilian deaths. They have also stressed that Taleban attacks have endangered innocent Afghans.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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