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Afghan President Says Air Strikes Kill 40 Civilians at Wedding Party


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says international air strikes in southern Afghanistan have killed around 40 civilians attending a wedding party.

Mr. Karzai condemned Monday's air strikes, which he says also wounded 28 civilians in a village in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province.

Residents say U.S. aircraft bombed their village after Taliban militants fired on U.S.-led troops nearby. They say the warplanes struck a housing complex where villagers had been celebrating a wedding.

Villagers say the bride was wounded and taken to a hospital in Kandahar city, while the groom escaped unhurt after having left the wedding party just before the air strikes.

Mr. Karzai called Wednesday on U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to put a stop to civilian casualties resulting from U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military says it is investigating casualty reports from Monday's battle. A military spokesman offered condolences and apologies if innocent people were killed.

U.S. and NATO-led operations against militants in Afghanistan have caused scores of civilian deaths this year, prompting growing criticism from Mr. Karzai's government.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul today, Afghan President Karzai called for a change in the U.S. strategy for fighting terrorism.

NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces say they do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, but they say mistakes do happen.

U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus arrived in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Tuesday to assess efforts to combat growing insurgent violence in Afghanistan.

It is the general's first trip to Afghanistan since he took command of all U.S. military forces in the Middle East and Central Asia last week.

In another development, Britain's defense ministry says a British solider was killed by enemy fire Tuesday in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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