Afghan civilian killings denied


KABUL - The Nato-led force in Afghanistan yesterday rejected claims that its soldiers had killed civilians during an operation against Taliban insurgents in the southern province of Helmand.

The issue of civilian deaths is sensitive in Afghanistan and has reduced public support for international forces in the country and caused a rift between Afghan president Hamid Karzai and his western backers.

Hundreds of Afghans were killed in air strikes and raids by foreign troops last year.

The latest incident happened in Baghni district on Monday night when, according to a provincial government source, five members of a family were killed in an operation by British forces.

No further details were given by the official.

But the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said only insurgents were killed.

"Isaf has no knowledge of casualties other than the positively identified insurgents," it said. - (Reuters)