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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Row over Afghan clash casualties
Kunar map
Eight people, including a child, have been killed in a raid by US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan, coalition and Afghan officials say.

The coalition forces said the seven men killed in the raid in Kunar province were suspected al-Qaeda members.

But local people told the BBC that men were tribal elders who had gathered to resolve a local dispute.

Hundreds of people have died this year in Afghanistan's worst bloodshed since the fall of the Taleban five years ago.

The US-led coalition forces said that they raided a house and killed seven suspected al-Qaeda "facilitators" near the village of Asmar in Kunar on Thursday morning.

"Afghan and coalition forces came under direct fire when approaching the compound and defended themselves with return fire," a US military statement said.

'Immoral'

The statement said the child who was also killed during the fighting was between 10 to 12 years of age.

"The al-Qaeda fighters deliberately put women and children at risk in an effort to protect their illegal and immoral operations," coalition spokesman Col Thomas Collins said.

But local people said the dead men were tribal elders who were meeting to settle a dispute.

Four other men in the house were arrested by the troops. No coalition or Afghan forces were hurt in the operation.

The scene of a suicide attack in Kandahar
Hundreds of people have been killed in violence this year

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Kabul says US forces have been involved in heavy fighting in Kunar as they search for Taleban fighters and their al-Qaeda allies in the ragged mountains along the border with Pakistan.

The Taleban and forces loyal to the anti-government warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are active in the area.

Militants have recently stepped up their insurgency against government and foreign forces in the south and east.

Nato forces recently assumed formal control of military operations in southern Afghanistan from the US-led coalition, which overthrew the Taleban in 2001.




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