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NATO air strikes leave 50 dead in S. Afghanistan
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NATO's air raids against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province claimed the lives of 50 persons including 18 rebels, a parliamentarian from the restive province said Tuesday.

"It was Monday afternoon when villagers were busy in playing local game the stone throwing in Marmal village of Sangin district, suddenly the aircraft of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) appeared and dropped bombs, killing 50 on the spot," Hajji Dad Mohammada told Xinhua.

He added that 18 of those killed in the raid were Taliban fighters.

However, Mohammad Hussain Andiwal, the police chief of Helmand province, when reached by Xinhua expressed ignorance by saying,"I have no information."

Meantime, Carlose Branco, the spokesman of the NATO-led ISAF forces, utterly rejected the claim as groundless, adding the military alliance did not carry out any operation in Sangin district on Monday.

"First of all, ISAF strongly deny the claim. There has been no ISAF operation in Marmal area of Sangin district yesterday," he told Xinhua.

However, he added that ISAF conducted an operation in the vicinity of Malmandcina area in Ghorak district of Kandahar Monday, destroying a vehicle of insurgents and killing 12 armed militants aboard.

He also stressed that the place where the operation conducted was two kilometers away from residential areas and air reconnaissance indicated there were no civilians.

Similar incidents in the past had claimed the lives of civilians in parts of the country mostly in the southern region.

President Hamid Karzai had more than once called on the international troops based in Afghanistan to coordinate military operations with local authorities in order to avoid harming non-combatants.

(Xinhua News Agency March 19, 2008)

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