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Last Updated: Monday, 17 April 2006, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
US probes 'friendly fire' deaths
Afghans show off damage they say was caused by coalition strikes
Civilians have been caught up in battles between the US and Taleban
US-led forces in Afghanistan say they are investigating two separate incidents in which they may have killed civilians and Afghan policemen.

Seven civilians died during a battle with insurgents in the eastern province of Kunar on Saturday.

A US statement regretted the "loss of innocent life" in that incident.

A separate investigation is under way to determine if "friendly fire" led to the deaths of six Afghan policemen on Friday in southern Kandahar province.

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The deaths occurred during a fire fight between a coalition patrol and militants in Kunar province near the border with Pakistan, the US military said.

Some 10 militants are said to have been killed in the clash in which US aircraft and artillery were used to target a house and a cave in which they were hiding.

We are profoundly sorry about the loss of life
US military spokesman

"Our surveillance indicated that there was a house with a cave nearby and that the insurgents were going back and forth between both, so we suppressed the area with a combined arms assault of close air support, artillery and direct fire," military spokesman Maj Matt Hackathorn said.

"But once we realised there were civilians in the area, we ceased fire."

As well as the seven people killed, at least three were injured, village elders said.

"Whether our direct fire was responsible or close-air support, or if the victims were caught in the crossfire we just don't know right now," Maj Hackathorn said.

"We are profoundly sorry about the loss of life."

Major offensive

On Friday, six Afghan policemen and up to 41 Taleban fighters are said to have been killed in a battle in Kandahar province.

An investigation is now under way to determine if the Afghan policemen died in coalition fire.

"We are investigating the incident and we will work jointly with the government of Afghanistan to determine the events that took place during this fight," coalition task force commander, Brigadier General David Fraser, said.

US, British and Afghan forces last week launched Operation Mountain Lion involving 2,500 troops to flush out Taleban-led militants assumed to be behind a recent upsurge in attacks on both coalition forces and civilians.

The Afghan defence ministry says it is the biggest joint operation since the Taleban were driven from power in 2001.


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