KABUL // A Nato air strike killed 11 Afghan civilians, including 10 children, during a fierce weekend gun battle with Taliban militants that also left one US civilian adviser dead in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said yesterday.
The US-led coalition confirmed that air strikes were called in by international forces during the Afghan-led operation in a remote area of Kunar province near the Pakistan border.
The coalition also said that it was aware of reports that civilians had been killed, but had no immediate information about their deaths.
The death of Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire of battle has been a major point of contention between international forces and the Afghan government, prompting the president, Hamid Karzai, to ban his troops from requesting air strikes earlier this year.
Wasifullah Wasify, a government official in Kunar province, said the air strike on Saturday targeted a house and killed 10 children and one woman inside. He said seven Taliban suspects were also killed and five other women in the house were wounded.
The air strike occurred after a joint US-Afghan force faced hours of heavy gunfire from militants after launching an operation targeting a senior Taliban leader late on Friday in the Shultan area of Kunar's Shigal district, according to Gul Pasha, a tribal elder who is also the chief of the local council in Shultan.
"In the morning after sunrise, planes appeared in the sky and air strikes started and continued until evening," he said.
He said the main suspect was in the house that was hit and the woman and children, between the ages of one and 12, who were killed were members of his family.
"I don't think they knew that all these children and women were in the house because they were under attack from the house and they were shooting at the house," he said.
The US-led coalition said it provided fire support from the air, killing several insurgents.
"The air support was called in by coalition forces, not Afghan security forces, and was used to engage insurgent forces in areas away from structures, according to our reporting," said Maj Adam Wojack, a coalition spokesman.
He said the International Security Assistance Force was assessing the incident.