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Afghan Gov't Confirms NATO Troops Kill 20 Civilians
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The Afghan government confirmed on Thursday that NATO troops in anti-terror operations mistakenly killed 20 civilians in southern Afghanistan.

NATO forces killed nine civilians and injured 11 others in Ashogha village of Zhari district, Kandahar province, said a statement from the Office of the Spokesman to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

It also said the forces killed 11 civilians in Tajikan village of Gereshk district in Helmand province.

The statement said the enemies of Afghanistan, a term used to refer to Taliban militants, had taken shelter in residential areas in the two villages.

It did not mention the time of the two incidents, while local media said both tragedies occurred early on Wednesday.

President Karzai urged "NATO forces to take maximum caution during anti-terrorist operations to protect the lives and safety of civilians," and expressed his deep regret at the unfortunate civilian death, the statement said.

Before the statement was released, some media had reported the two incidents by citing sources of locals and witnesses, but their reports were not fully verified by officials.

Foreign military actions have caused civilian casualties in Afghanistan from time to time.

The US-led coalition forces killed seven civilians in an operation in the eastern Kunar province in April.

The worst incident of civilian deaths happened in July 2002, when a US air strike in the southern Uruzgan province killed 48 civilians and wounded 117 others, many of them celebrating at a wedding party.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2006)

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