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Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Afghan civilians killed in raid

Relatives mourn a child killed in US raid in Khost
At least one child is confirmed to have died in the raid in Khost

Six civilians have been killed during a raid by US-led coalition forces in south-eastern Afghanistan, government officials and villagers said.

Two children and a woman were killed in the raid in a village in the Khost province, according to a spokesman for the local governor.

The coalition said only that a woman, a boy and "several militants" had died.

Last week, four Afghan civilians were killed in an air strike by British forces in southern Helmand province.

'Regrettable'

Reports from Muqibel village in Khost where the latest offensive happened said villagers chanted angry slogans against US President George W Bush after the killings.

Khost map

District governor Gul Qasim told Reuters news agency that the troops raided two houses and killed three men, two children and a woman.

Two men had been detained during the raid, villagers said.

Maj Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the US military, said in a statement that the US-led forces were searching compounds for a militant named Bismullah who organised roadside bomb attacks and smuggled weapons.

The US military said militants shot at the troops, who returned fire killing "several militants", including Bismullah.

Maj Belcher said the woman and child who died were in one of the buildings from which militants were shooting, it said.

"It is regrettable that militants continue to place innocent lives at risk simply to further their own agendas," Maj Belcher said.

Foreign forces in Afghanistan have come under increasing pressure over Afghan civilian casualties.

Last year Nato head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said its forces were doing all they can to avoid Afghan civilian casualties.

Oxfam said half of the 1,200 civilian deaths last year were caused by international and Afghan troops.

The US-led coalition in Afghanistan has about 7,000 troops, and is separate from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) which is also operating there.


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