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Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Saturday, 9 May 2009 15:19 UK

Afghan death toll not confirmed

Afghans in Bala Baluk, Farah Province, mark out graves after the fighting, 5 May
Red Cross officials reported women and children among the dead

A joint US-Afghan inquiry has confirmed that a number of civilians were killed in recent fighting and US air strikes in the western province of Farah.

But the preliminary statement did not specify how many civilians died - an issue that has caused a row between the Afghan government and the US military.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the US air strikes definitely caused more than 100 civilian deaths.

But the US military earlier described such figures as a gross exaggeration.

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Investigators have visited graves in the area, and the investigation is continuing.

"The joint investigation team confirms that a number of civilians were killed in the course of the fighting..." the investigators said.

But they had been "unable to determine with certainty which of those casualties were Taleban fighters and which were non-combatants because those killed are all buried".

"Reports also indicate that Taleban fighters deliberately forced villagers into houses from which they then attacked [Afghan] and coalition forces," the investigators' statement added.

On Friday, President Karzai called on the US to halt air strikes in his country, saying they were "not acceptable".



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