At least 11 Afghan civilians killed in air strike, local official says

KABUL (Reuters) - At least 11 Afghan civilians were killed and 16 wounded on Wednesday when a NATO helicopter attacked a house where Taliban insurgents had taken shelter in Logar province, east of the capital, Kabul, the local governor said.

There was no immediate confirmation that NATO or U.S. aircraft were involved, but a spokesman for Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Kabul, said in an emailed statement it was aware of the reports and was looking into them.

Logar Governor Halim Fedaee said the incident occurred in Dashte Bari district near the provincial capital Pul-e Alam.

“The Taliban took position in a civilian house and fired a rocket at a NATO helicopter,” the governor said. “The house owner begged the Taliban to leave, but they didn’t. The helicopter took a turn, came and hit this house that caused these deaths.”

The incident, a day after reports that an Afghan air strike killed at least 13 civilians in the western province of Herat, underlines the risk that a recent increase in air raids by U.S. and Afghan forces will increase civilian casualties.

United Nations figures showed a 43 percent spike in civilian casualties from both Afghan and U.S. air strikes in the first half of the year, with 95 killed and 137 wounded, as the pace of air operations has increased.

Civilian casualties caused by U.S. air strikes have long been a source of friction in Afghanistan, and the risk of further casualties may increase if the U.S. steps up operations as part of President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan.

Earlier, Resolute Support denied a Taliban statement that a U.S. helicopter had been shot down in Logar province. It said a helicopter had made a precautionary landing for a maintenance issue.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, editing by Larry King