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NATO Tightens Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan

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NATO says it has tightened its rules of engagement in Afghanistan in an attempt to minimize civilian causalities and reduce tensions.

An alliance spokesman Wednesday announced that Afghan forces will take the lead in all searches of Afghan homes and religious sites. The directive specifies that foreign troops can only lead such searches if a clear danger has been identified.

This new rule went into effect last month but was only made public Wednesday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called on the roughly 60,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan to avoid harming civilians. He has said the issue of civilian casualties has undermined public support for foreign troops in his country.

NATO blames Taliban fighters for causing the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

In other news Wednesday, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, General Zahir Azimi, said that only four districts in Afghanistan's volatile south remain under Taliban control. General Azimi made the remarks at a joint Afghan-NATO press conference in Kabul.

Officials say one district is located in Daykundi province while the other three are in Helmand province.

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

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