KABUL — The U.S. coalition blamed Taliban militants Saturday for causing what Afghan officials say are dozens of civilian deaths during a prolonged battle that included American airstrikes. The U.S. said an unspecified number of civilians died but did not take responsibility for any deaths.
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry declined to endorse the U.S. report, saying its own investigation would be completed soon.
Afghan officials have estimated that up to 147 people died in the battle in the western province of Farah on Monday. A U.S. spokeswoman called that number exaggerated, but the U.S. report did not offer an estimate of the battle's civilian toll.
The preliminary report said Taliban fighters herded Afghan villagers into houses to use as human shields while they fired on coalition forces in two villages in Farah. The report said that U.S. forces had responded to a call for help from Afghan forces and that militants attacked the troops from several locations.
Troops called for airstrikes on the militant positions, and a U.S. spokeswoman said Saturday that fighter aircraft made 13 passes over the two villages, using a combination of flares, strafing runs and bombs.