International troops killed six Afghan men in an overnight raid on Thursday in a village in southern Afghanistan. A provincial official said the men were civilians, but the US military said they were militants.
Meanwhile, Russia announced it would allow US military supplies for Afghanistan to cross its territory, a potentially important alternative to roads through Pakistan that have increasingly been threatened by insurgent attacks.
Civilian deaths are a hot-button issue in Afghanistan, with Afghani President Hamid Karzai repeatedly calling on foreign troops to do more to prevent the deaths of innocents and asking for more control over foreign military operations in the country.
Reports often differ on whether those killed in raids are insurgents or civilians.
The Taliban are powerful across southern Afghanistan and often hide out in homes. Villagers not part of the insurgency are often still armed.
Zabul Province Deputy Governor Gulab Shah Alikheil said six men were killed and three arrested late on Thursday in a raid by foreign troops on a village in Shahresafa district.
He said the dead were four brothers from one family and two from another.
The US military said in a statement that the men were killed in the raid on a compound connected to a bomb-making cell.
Atha Mohammad, a tribal leader from Shahresafa, said many people have fled the district because of repeated raids there. He said the young men killed on Thursday were not militants.
“They were civilians. They were farmers. They were not Taliban,” Mohammad said.
The US has some 33,000 soldiers in Afghanistan battling a resurgent Taliban and US President Barack Obama is expected to send up to 30,000 more this year as his administration shifts its focus from the war in Iraq to the Afghan conflict.
The impending deployment has increased the urgency of securing supply lines to the country. An attack on Tuesday wrecked a bridge on the main road into Afghanistan through Pakistan, though officials said it was reopened on Friday.
The Russian announcement came as Kyrgyzstan said it would not reverse its decision to close a key US air base used for refueling and medical evacuations from Afghanistan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not specify if Moscow would provide land or air corridors, but the US and NATO have mostly been interested in land routes
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