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UN Says Disputed US Airstrike Killed 90 Afghan Civilians

The United Nations says its investigation into U.S. airstrikes on Friday in western Afghanistan found "convincing evidence" that the operation killed 90 civilians - 60 of whom were children. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that U.S. officials say the strikes killed 25 militants and five civilians, but they are continuing an investigation into the incident.

The United Nations weighed in on the disputed air strike just days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced the civilian deaths in the attack.

U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique called on the international and Afghan military forces to review the conduct of the operation to prevent a repeat of what he called a tragic incident.

"Investigations by UNAMA found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 men and 15 women," he said. "This matter is of grave concern to the United Nations, we have repeatedly made clear that the safety and welfare of civilians must be considered above all else during the planning and conduct of all military operations."

Afghan officials who visited the region following Friday's airstrike said locals reported similar death tolls, and disputed that Taliban forces were in the region. The U.S. military said the airstrikes were called in after a group of wanted militants fired on a U.S.-Afghan joint patrol.

Officers said troops immediately searched the area afterward and reported 25 militants were among the 30 dead.

Pentagon officials say they are concerned about the conflicting reports and are continuing their own investigation. Spokesman Bryan Whitman said he did not know when the investigation would end and its results released. But he told reporters he has received no indication that the initial U.S. account is inaccurate.

In Afghanistan, President Karzai released a statement ordering Afghan ministries to regulate the presence of foreign troops and try to end airstrikes on civilian targets. On Sunday, President Karzai is reported to have fired an Afghan Army general and another officer for their roll in the operation and for concealing information about the deaths.

Mr. Karzai's spokesman Humayun Hamidzada told reporters the government does not want foreign troops to leave Afghanistan, but said their actions must be within the framework of Afghan and international law.

NATO and U.S. military officials insist they take great care in targeting airstrikes, but militants frequently hide in civilian areas.