Page last updated at 00:18 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 01:18 UK

UK troops kill Afghan civilians

Afghanistan with Helmand and Sangin
Some of the fiercest fighting has been in Helmand province

An investigation is under way after three civilians were killed and four injured in Afghanistan in a rocket attack by British troops.

The incident involving the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment happened on Saturday in the Sangin district of Helmand province.

An International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) spokesman said the patrol launched the rockets in self-defence.

The Ministry of Defence said a full investigation would be carried out.

The spokesman added: "Our sympathies are with the families of the killed and injured civilians at this time."

The incident happened on Saturday morning when a patrol picked up a radio message calling for insurgents to converge on the area to attack the patrol, an Isaf spokesman said.

The enemies of Afghanistan have yet again shown a complete disregard for the lives of the innocent who they claim to fight for
Isaf spokesman

He said the patrol identified insurgents with weapons on the roof of a building preparing to attack.

In order to protect themselves, the patrol launched three rockets, all of which hit the target.

The spokesman said they later discovered civilians were inside the building at the time.

The casualties were treated at a nearby Isaf medical facility where two of them, both children, remain seriously ill.

"The enemies of Afghanistan have yet again shown a complete disregard for the lives of the innocent who they claim to fight for," he added.

BBC security correspondent Rob Watson said more than 900 civilians have been killed this year - the majority by insurgents.

Defence sources complain that launching attacks from among civilians is a frequent tactic of the Taleban, and although such incidents do not happen daily they are hardly uncommon, our correspondent added.

British troops have been engaged in Afghanistan since September 2001 and there are now approximately 7,300 British troops across the south of the country.

The number of UK troops killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 115, following the death of a soldier after a suicide bomber drove his car into a convoy on the outskirts of Kabul, on 11 August.


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