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NATO Admits Attack Killed Afghan Civilians; Casualty Toll Uncertain

NATO on Thursday acknowledged that coalition and Afghan troops killed a number of civilians during a joint operation in eastern Afghanistan, and said it deeply regrets the loss of life.

Alliance officials said the complete casualty toll is uncertain, but that at least four, and possibly a dozen or more civilians died before dawn Thursday in Nangarhar province.

Local officials said at least 26 civilians were killed during two separate incidents. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation.

NATO said its troops came under fire while searching for a Taliban commander in Sherzad district, and the allied force returned fire. The NATO statement did not mention the second incident reported by local officials, who said a group of civilian vehicles came under attack while trying to cross a flooded area.

In northern Kunduz province Thursday, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a joint NATO-Afghan military convoy, killing seven Afghan policemen. Six police officers and five civilians were wounded in the attack. A NATO spokesman said coalition troops also were injured but gave no further details.

In southern Kandahar province, NATO said one of its helicopters made a "hard landing" Thursday and caught fire. The alliance said eight of 15 passengers suffered minor injuries and that an investigation is underway.

In neighboring Helmand province, Afghan officials said nine civilians were killed by a roadside bomb. In the same province, a joint NATO-Afghan force killed four insurgents, and destroyed narcotics and explosives.