U.S. officials say coalition aircraft targeting Taleban compounds in Southern Afghanistan have killed up to 60 insurgents. Local residents claim the attack also killed or wounded dozens of civilians.
U.S. forces launched the attack late Sunday night in the southern province of Kandahar.
Coalition spokeswoman Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence says the operation targeted a well-known Taleban stronghold about 50 kilometers west of the provincial capital.
"Coalition forces in that area destroyed large enemy weapons caches and several Taleban compounds as well as a large number of Taleban deaths," Lawrence said.
Local residents claim the air strikes also killed several dozen civilians, including a number of women and children. The major news agencies reported from the scene that civilians were among the dead and wounded.
Lieutenant Lawrence says the area has been sealed off and an investigation into the claims of civilian casualties is already underway.
"We have heard those reports and we are looking into them but we don't have any confirmed information on that right now," Lawrence said.
Overall the last week has been one of the deadliest in Afghanistan since U.S-led forces ousted the Taleban regime in 2001 for protecting terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist organization.
U.S. officials say more than 200 people have been killed during this period, most of them militants.
The fighting has been primarily limited to Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, but a series of suicide bomb attacks have also been reported in major cities across the country, including the capital, Kabul.
The upsurge in violence is apparently part of a long-threatened "summer offensive" by the Taleban. The attacks come as NATO peacekeepers are about to take over security operations in the South from U.S.-led coalition forces.
The timing has prompted widespread speculation that the insurgents may be trying to intimidate the less-experienced NATO troops.