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Roadside attacks kill Afghan civilians

  • Story Highlights
  • Fourteen Afghan civilians killed in Taliban roadside attacks
  • 17 Taliban militants die in clashes with Afghan and NATO-led troops
  • Fighting took place in southern Helmand province
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(CNN) -- Fourteen Afghan civilians were killed Saturday in Taliban roadside attacks and 17 Taliban militants were killed in clashes with Afghan and NATO-led troops in southern Helmand province, officials said.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the reported deaths of a number of civilians -- many of them children -- in a U.S. airstrike Friday in Herat province. Karzai said in a statement that details would be announced soon about planned measures to prevent civilian casualties during military operations.

Conflicting reports persisted Saturday about the number of civilians killed in Friday's airstrike. The Afghan Interior Ministry on Friday reported 76 people were killed. A western region police spokesman on Saturday put the number at more than 90, while Karzai's statement said about 70 were killed. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission put the death toll at 78.

The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement Saturday it was "aware of allegations that the engagement in the Shindand District of Herat province Friday may have resulted in civilian casualties.

"All allegations of civilian casualties are taken very seriously," the statement said. "Coalition forces make every effort to prevent the injury or loss of innocent lives."

Coalition forces said earlier that Afghan and coalition troops had embarked on a raid to arrest a Taliban commander in Shindand.

Insurgents fired on the soldiers with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, and troops responded with their own small-arms fire and called in an airstrike, killing 30 insurgents -- including Mullah Sadiq, a known Taliban commander, coalition forces said.

An investigation into the reported civilian deaths was underway, according to coalition and Afghan officials.

In his statement, Karzai said he talked by telephone Saturday with a tribal elder in the village bombed Friday and "expressed his condolences to the people affected in the airstrike." The president has dispatched an investigative team, the statement said.

Karzai blamed U.S.-led coalition forces for failing to coordinate their attack with the Afghan army.

"All efforts of the Afghan government to avoid civilian casualties have not yielded any positive results, and our innocent countrymen are still killed in anti-terrorism operations," the president's statement said.

Ten of Saturday's civilian deaths occurred in southern Kandahar province, where police said two children, a woman and seven men died Saturday morning when their minibus struck a mine. Four other civilians were wounded, police said.

Another four people were killed and seven wounded in a roadside attack in Khost province's Tani district, police said.

Authorities said 17 militants died in clashes in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province. The operation started Friday and continued into Saturday, said provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal. Two Afghan soldiers were wounded, he said.

Journalist Farhad Peikar contributed to this report

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