Airstrikes by NATO helicopters hunting Taliban fighters ripped through three dried mud homes in southern Afghanistan as villagers slept, killing at least nine civilians, including women and children, residents and the provincial governor said.
Shellshocked, angry villagers in Ashogho condemned the attack early on Wednesday. The airstrikes came at about the same time as a rocket struck a house in a village to the west, reportedly killing 13 people.
Kandahar Provincial Governor Asadullah Khalid said it appeared that no Taliban fighters were in the village at the time of the airstrikes, which left giant pieces of mud packed with straw scattered along Ashogho's narrow lane.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said yesterday that while Afghanistan is "committed to the fight against terrorism," NATO forces needed to take precautions during military operations to protect civilians.
"I have mentioned this several times in the past that every effort should be made to ensure the safety of civilians and that inflicting harm to them is not acceptable to us," Karzai said in a statement.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that the operation had been aimed at individuals involved in roadside bomb attacks in Panjwayi district, which borders Zhari.
NATO said it regretted any civilian casualties.
Meanwhile a suicide bomber yesterday killed two children and wounded several other people in the south.
The International Security Assistance Force said the suicide attack in the town of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province wounded "a small number" of British soldiers.
The bomber, who was on foot and targeting the British troops, killed two children -- a boy and a girl both under the age of 8 -- and wounded seven civilians, a spokesman for Helmand's governor said.