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Nato air strike may have killed 8 women

Nato was accused of killing eight women yesterday, capping a weekend which saw six soldiers shot dead by presumed Afghan colleagues and a Taliban assault cause unprecedented losses on one of the biggest military bases in the country.

KABUL // Nato was accused of killing eight women yesterday, capping a weekend which saw six soldiers shot dead by presumed Afghan colleagues and a Taliban assault cause unprecedented losses on one of the biggest military bases in the country.

The United States-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said an air strike targeted 45 insurgents, but later expressed its sincerest condolences over "possible Isaf-caused civilian casualties" numbering five to eight.

Civilian casualties have strained relations between the US and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. In June, Isaf ordered an end to air strikes on homes, except as a last resort.

Yesterday's attack came shortly before dawn, in Alingar district of Laghman province, east of Kabul, as women set off to collect firewood, said a local official.

"In this raid, eight women are killed and another eight women are wounded," said a provincial spokesman, Sarhadi Zwak.

Tribesmen carried bodies to the area capital of Mihtarlam, shouting "death to America, death to the Jews".

Mr Karzai expressed sadness and condemned the killing of the women. Seven other women were wounded and a delegation had been ordered to travel to the remote area to investigate, his office said.

In Zabul province, part of the south where the 10-year Taliban insurgency is traditionally strongest, four US soldiers were shot dead and two wounded after being scrambled to help police repel an insurgent attack, officials said.

The Isaf spokesman, Lt Col Hagen Messer, said it was still unclear whether the attacker "was an individual wearing a police uniform or definitely a policeman".

"Three to four other policemen have disappeared. At the moment, we don't know where they have gone. We don't know if they fled fearing arrest or if they are linked to the Taliban," a provincial official said.

A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, denied that the militia had planned the attack.

Yesterday's deaths took to 51 the number of western soldiers killed by Afghan colleagues in 36 incidents so far this year.

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