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Afghanistan: NATO Airstrike Kills 27 Civilians

The Afghan government says a NATO airstrike has killed 27 civilians in southern Afghanistan.

The Council of Ministers released a statement Monday condemning the incident in Uruzgan province as "unjustifiable." Early reports said 33 died, but officials later lowered the number to 27.

NATO said the airstrike targeted insurgents who were believed to be traveling to attack allied troops. A NATO statement said that after the strike NATO forces found women and children and transported them to medical facilities.

In eastern Afghanistan, police say a suicide bomber killed at least 14 people, including an influential tribal leader.

Police in Nangarhar province said the attacker targeted a meeting of tribal elders and killed Haji Mohammad Zaman Ghamsharik, also known as Haji Zaman. He and the tribal militia he led played a key role in the failed attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora in 2001.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, expressed regret for the civilian deaths in Uruzgan and pledged to cooperate with a joint investigation.

Uruzgan is northeast of Helmand province, where NATO and Afghan forces are engaged in a major operation against Taliban insurgents in Marjah.

So far, at least 16 civilians, about 120 insurgents and 13 NATO troops have been killed in the week-long offensive.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen said Monday that the offensive is proceeding slower than expected, but allied forces continue to make progress.

NATO officers have reported stiff resistance from some groups of fighters in Marjah.

U.N. officials tell VOA that about 3,300 families have left Marjah and the surrounding areas since the operation began.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.