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6 Civilians Die in US-Afghan Operation Against Militants - 2003-11-17

Authorities in Afghanistan say six civilians have died in an air strike by U.S.-led coalition warplanes in the east of the country. There are conflicting reports whether the victims were in a house or a vehicle, and the U.S. military has yet to comment.

Afghan officials say the deaths occurred Saturday when an American warplane dropped a bomb in the Barmal district of the eastern Paktika province, which borders Pakistan.

The provincial governor says U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting an operation against anti-government militants linked to the al-Qaida terror network when the bomb was dropped.

Remnants of the ousted Taleban regime and al-Qaida fighters have frequently clashed with Afghan and U.S. soldiers in Paktika.

Afghan officials have repeatedly alleged the militants are using bases in Pakistan to launch their attacks on Afghanistan, a charge Pakistani officials deny.

Last month, eight members of the same family were killed during an aerial bombardment in the northeastern province of Nuristan. Locals blamed coalition forces for that incident, but the source of the bombing has not yet been determined.

Suspected Taleban and al-Qaida fighters have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks, targeting coalition forces and their local allies, as well as aid workers.

On Sunday, a female French employee of the U.N. refugee agency was shot dead in the southeastern Afghan town of Ghazni. Two suspected Taleban attackers are in custody and being questioned by police.