As many as "a dozen or more" Afghan civilians died during a raid by U.S. troops hunting for Taliban commanders in eastern Afghanistan, military officials acknowledged Thursday.
The incident, which took place Wednesday night in Nangarhar province, comes amid escalating tensions between the Western military and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai over civilian casualties.
In the raid, a fierce firefight broke out after American and Afghan forces swooped down on a compound in Sherzad district, according to local officials and the NATO force. Fifteen to 20 insurgents were killed, including two wanted Taliban commanders, the officials said.
The troops came under fire and called in air cover as they withdrew, the military said.
"It appears that between four and a dozen or more civilians were killed" in the confrontation, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the force's strategic communications director, said NATO forces deeply regret the civilian deaths.
The NATO force said earlier that up to eight people, mostly insurgents, were killed in fighting that took place 10 miles away, but insisted there was no military activity in the area where the larger number of deaths were reported.