Afghan officials say Pakistani fighters, Afghan civilians among dead in NATO air strike

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Updated at 9:47 a.m. Eastern

KABUL Afghan officials told CBS News on Wednesday that at least 10 people, possibly including women and children, and with Pakistani nationals among them, were killed in an overnight NATO air strike in northeast Afghanistan's Kunar Province.

Local governor Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi said four insurgents and 10 civilians were killed in the attack near the Pakistani border, including four women and five children. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who appointed Wahidi, later repeated that claim, condemning the strike and saying 10 civilians, including women and children, were killed.

Ebadullah Karimi, a police spokesman for the region, gave CBS News a differing account, however, saying 14 people had been killed, including 10 Pakistani nationals. According to Karimi, who told CBS News his officers had found Pakistani ID cards on the deceased, six were male insurgents and four were Pakistani women. He said four Afghan men died in the alleged air strike, but did not mention any children.

Death tolls from military operations and air strikes in remote areas of Afghanistan often vary greatly, and are difficult to independently verify, but the claim of Pakistani militants being killed on Afghan soil could be seized upon by the Afghan government, which, along with the U.S., has often accused Pakistan of allowing Taliban fighters to operate freely on its side of the rugged frontier.

Jamie Graybeal, the spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, said officials were "assessing the situation and take every report of civilian casualties very seriously." He would not confirm any ISAF military operation in the region.

The Taliban gave its own version of the incident, telling CBS News in a text message that a joint U.S.-Afghan attack had left nine civilians, including women and children, and three Taliban fighters dead.

Afghan officials said the airstrike came overnight during a joint operation between Afghan Commandos and U.S. Special Forces.

ISAF would not confirm that U.S. Special Forces were involved. Although the region is predominantly under U.S. command, other ISAF partners help make up the coalition force there.

The killing of civilians by U.S. troops has raised tensions between the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and this attack came within hours of President Obama's announcement that 34,000 U.S. troops would be pulled out of the country by this time next year.

Last week, the United Nations released a scathing report suggesting U.S. attacks -- predominantly airstrikes -- in Afghanistan has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children over the last four years.

The US military rejected the report, calling it "categorically unfounded."

U.S. officials insist that ISAF reduced civilian casualties by half from 2011 to 2012, and that the number of children killed or wounded in ISAF air operations fell by nearly 40 percent.

CBS News Kabul bureau chief Mukhtar Ahmad contributed to this report, edited by CBSNews.com foreign editor Tucker Reals in London.

  • Charlie D'Agata

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