Afghans check reports of heavy civilian casualties

KABUL Sat Jul 7, 2007 1:41am EDT

A British soldier secures the area near a suicide blast outside Kabul July 6, 2007. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

A British soldier secures the area near a suicide blast outside Kabul July 6, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's government said on Saturday it was checking reports of heavy civilian casualties caused by NATO and U.S. air strikes in two areas of the country.

The U.S. military said more than 30 insurgents were killed in air strikes in the western province of Farah on Friday, while the NATO-led force said air raids killed "a number" of guerrillas in the eastern province of Kunar also on Friday.

Spokesmen for the Western forces said there were no reports of civilian casualties in either area.

But several residents and the head of a district council in Farah said the attack in the Bala Boluk area there killed 108 civilians.

Residents of Kunar put the civilian death toll there at nearly two dozen.

The Interior Ministry in Kabul said it had heard of civilian deaths and was checking the reports.

A parliamentarian from Farah said there was heavy fighting and bombing in his province, but said he did not have any figure for casualties because of the inaccessibility of the district.

More than 300 civilians have been killed by Western air strikes in Afghanistan this year, according to provincial officials and aid groups.

An Afghan rights body this month urged foreign forces to cut air operations as it said civilians formed the bulk of casualties and instead proposed an increase in the number of ground troops, currently standing to nearly 50,000.

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