FILE - two Afghan soldiers sit on a guard tower at a military base in Nari district, Kunar province, Afghanistan.
FILE - two Afghan soldiers sit on a guard tower at a military base in Nari district, Kunar province, Afghanistan.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A counterinsurgency operation in eastern Afghanistan is said to have caused many civilian casualties, in addition to killing about 20 Taliban and al-Qaida operatives.

An Afghan government spokesman in the border province of Kunar, Abdul Ghani Musamem, told VOA that two Arab and three Uzbek nationals were among the militants killed in the overnight operation in Shegal district. Musamem said there were no civilian casualties.

But the spokesman for the provincial public health department, Azizur Rahman Safi, confirmed to VOA that the raid late Thursday also injured at least 15 civilians, including eight children and three women.

Safi said the injured are undergoing treatment in the main hospital in Kunar's capital, Asadabad. He did not say whether there were any civilian fatalities.

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed American airstrikes backed the operation and that it killed more than 65 civilians, mostly women and children. Mujahid asserted the airstrikes hit civilian homes. He would not say whether Taliban fighters were among the fatalities. Both sides often issue inflated tolls for casualties inflicted on their opponents.

U.S. soldier

Meanwhile, NATO's Resolute Support military mission in Afghanistan said Friday that a U.S. soldier died the previous day "in a non-combat related incident." It said the incident is under investigation and provided no further details.

The U.S. military has lost a total of 14 personnel this year, mostly in combat actions. About 14,000 American soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan conducting counterterrorism operations and advising and training Afghan forces under the Resolute Support mission.