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US Disputes Reports that Coalition Aircraft Killed Afghan Civilians


U.S. forces in Afghanistan are disputing reports that one of their aircraft killed 11 Afghan civilians on Sunday.

The U.S. military says that after an initial investigation into the reported bombing, there is no evidence that coalition forces killed any non-combatants.

Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty says that while U.S. and Afghan troops engaged anti-government insurgents over the weekend and killed five armed militants, no aircraft were used during the fighting and all engagements took place away from populated areas.

Afghan officials with the U.S.-allied transitional government in Uruzgan Province said Monday that a coalition air strike had claimed the lives of 11 civilians, including four children.

But Lieutenant Colonel Hilferty says such information is probably the result of propaganda by remnants of Afghanistan's former hard line Taleban regime.

"Typically, it appears that the Taleban are attempting to spread disinformation - propaganda - in order to discredit the coalition," he said.

In December, U.S. forces mistakenly killed 15 civilians in two separate incidents during combat against suspected Taleban militants.

Lieutenant Colonel Hilferty says that in those cases, the U.S. military was quick to admit responsibility.

"Last month, unfortunately and tragically, non-combatants were killed near Ghazni," he said. "We said that was true. We said we did it, immediately. In Garzdez, on the same weekend, there was an incident where non-combatants were killed tragically. We immediately said we did it."

The spokesman adds that U.S. troops were unable to examine the bodies of the dead civilians during their investigation of the reported incident.

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