Afghan official: NATO strike kills 8 civilians

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(AP) KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan authorities said on Sunday that an airstrike by the U.S.-led NATO coalition killed eight members of a family in eastern Afghanistan.

The coalition said it was aware of the allegation and was investigating the incident late Saturday in Paktia province.

"We acknowledge that coalition forces were conducting an operation in Paktia province against a large number of insurgents last night and we also are aware of the media reports today of civilian casualty allegations in that area," said Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the NATO coalition.

"We are currently looking into this and will release more information as appropriate."

Actions of the Taliban kill more civilians than foreign forces, but the deaths of citizens caught in the crossfire of the decade-long war continue to be an irritant in President Hamid Karzai's relationship with his international partners.

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Earlier this month, the Afghan president warned that civilian casualties caused by NATO airstrikes could undermine the strategic partnership agreement he just signed with the U.S.

Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia province, said Mohammad Shafi, his wife and their six children died in an airstrike around 8 p.m. in Suri Khail village of Gurda Saria district.

"Shafi was not a Taliban. He was not in any opposition group against the government. He was a villager," Samon said. "Right now, we are working on this case to find out the ages of their children and how many of them are boys and girls."

Any NATO airstrike that leads to civilian deaths erodes the Afghan people's trust in foreign forces.

"If the lives of Afghan people are not safe, the signing of the strategic partnership has no meaning," Karzai's office said earlier this month.