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Afghan civilian killed and children hurt in NATO strike
KABUL (Reuters) - NATO aircraft accidentally killed an Afghan civilian and wounded two children, the coalition said Wednesday, the latest incident involving civilian casualties which have strained ties between Kabul and Washington.
In a separate incident, three Afghan children were killed and nine people seriously wounded by a car bomb in volatile Kandahar province, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
Civilian casualties caused by foreign forces fighting Taliban-led insurgents have long been a source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, although the numbers caused by ISAF troops have been falling.
Violence across Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, with military and civilian casualties at record levels.
The violence, which has spread out of insurgent strongholds in the south and east into once peaceful areas in the north and west, will send a worrying signal to Washington, where a review of the Afghanistan war strategy is being wrapped up this week.
U.S. officials such as Defence Secretary Robert Gates and his military commanders however say their strategy is working and that the Taliban's momentum is being reversed in some areas.
Afghan civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict.
ISAF said the latest incident happened in Marjah in southern Helmand province when a patrol by Afghan and coalition forces came under fire Tuesday. A fierce battle for the control of Marjah began in February this year.
Air support was called in to help the patrol but it was later found the civilian had been killed and two children wounded, ISAF said in a statement.
"We are here to protect the Afghan people and initial indications are that in this case we may have failed," ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Tim Zadalis said.
The incident was being investigated, he said.
In neighboring Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, ISAF said insurgents had killed three Afghan children in a car bomb attack Wednesday they described as "indiscriminate."
It said two children and an Afghan policeman were among the nine wounded.
A mid-year report by the United Nations said the overall number of insurgency-related civilian casualties had risen by 31 percent in the first six months of 2010 compared with the same period the previous year.
According to the U.N. report, 1,271 civilians were killed from January to June, a 21 percent rise on 2009. At least three-quarters of those deaths were attributed to the Taliban and other insurgents.
The number caused by foreign forces over the same period fell dramatically, mainly because rules governing the use of air strikes were tightened by NATO and U.S. commanders.
Foreign military casualties stand at 693 for the year, by far the worst yearly toll of the war, according to figures kept by monitoring website www.iCasualties.org and Reuters.
A total of 521 foreign troops died last year, when violence spiked after the launch of extensive operations against the Taliban in their southern strongholds.
(Reporting by Paul Tait; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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