KABUL — Bombing runs called in by U.S. forces killed dozens of civilians taking shelter from fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan and international troops, Afghan officials said Tuesday. The United States promised a joint investigation.
A provincial council member said he saw about 30 bodies, many of them women and children, brought by enraged villagers to the capital of Farah province.
Death toll estimates varied widely. Villagers estimated from 70 to well over 100 civilians may have died, according to local and regional officials. But no government official could confirm such a toll.
Civilian deaths have caused increasing friction between the Afghan and U.S. governments. President Hamid Karzai, who meets with President Barack Obama in Washington today, has long pleaded with American officials to reduce the number of civilian casualties in their operations.
The latest fighting broke out Monday soon after Taliban fighters massed in Farah province in western Afghanistan, said Belqis Roshan, a member of Farah's provincial council. The provincial police chief, Abdul Ghafar, said 25 militants and three police officers died in that battle near the village of Ganjabad in Bala Baluk district, a Taliban-controlled area near the border with Iran.
Villagers told Afghan officials that they put children, women, and elderly men in several housing compounds in the village of Gerani — about 3 miles to the east — to keep them safe. But villagers said fighter aircraft later targeted those compounds, killing a majority of those inside, according to Roshan and other officials.