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Afghan Officials: US-Led Troops Kill Militants, Civilians


Afghan officials say U.S.-led coalition troops have killed 28 Taliban rebels and at least four civilians in the country's southwest.

The governor of Nimroz province, Ghulam Dastagir Azad, said Monday that Afghan ground troops backed by coalition air strikes killed the militants Sunday in the Khash Rod district. He said three of the victims were Taliban commanders.

A Taliban spokesman denied any militant deaths and said the casualties were civilians who had gathered for a party.

The coalition confirmed killing several insurgents and said one rebel was captured. It did not comment on any civilian deaths.

The coalition said separately that three soldiers were killed Sunday when their vehicle plunged into a river during a patrol in the southern province of Kandahar.

Civilian deaths caused by foreign troops have sparked violent demonstrations in the past.

The United Nations humanitarian chief, John Holmes, said Sunday that the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan has increased by more than 60 percent this year.

He said most of this year's nearly 700 civilian casualties were caused by insurgents, and that civilian deaths caused by government or foreign troops has declined.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi disputed the U.N. figures today. He said there actually have been fewer civilian casualties this year than last. He attributed this to better coordination between Afghan and coalition forces to minimize civilian casualties in the fight against insurgents.

Afghan, NATO and U.S. troops have been fighting Taliban militants and other rebels since a U.S.-led invasion removed the Taliban from power in late 2001.

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