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Afghans Allege Civilians Killed in NATO Operation

NATO says a joint Afghan-international force killed a Taliban commander and several armed individuals in southern Afghanistan, but local villagers say the dead are all civilians.

NATO issued a statement Monday, saying the joint force returned fire in self-defense after coming under fire during a search operation at a compound in Kandahar city late Sunday.  NATO said a senior Taliban facilitator, Shyster Uhstad Khan, was among those killed and that women and children were protected during the search.

But residents told reporters that eight people were killed in the raid and that they were all civilians. A villager told news agencies his brothers and father were among those killed.  Kandahar police say they are investigating residents' claims.

In eastern Afghanistan, officials say eight civilians, including women and children, were killed in a roadside bombing in Ghazni province on Monday.

And the British defense ministry says small-arms fire killed a British soldier in the Nahr-e Saraj district of southern Helmand province on Sunday.  June has become the deadliest month for international forces since 2001, with close to 100 NATO troops killed.

Violence has increased in Afghanistan as U.S.-led NATO forces and Afghan troops increase military efforts to clear Kandahar and surrounding areas of Taliban militants.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai is strongly denying a media report that the Afghan leader held talks with an Al-Qaida-linked Taliban leader in Kabul.

A report on Al-Jazeera television on Sunday said President Karzai met with Sirajuddin Haqqani, who heads the Haqqani network, as part of a government-initiated peace plan to end the nine-year war with Taliban insurgents.

Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar on Monday called the report "completely baseless" and said there was no truth to it.

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

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