February 5th, 2008 04:19 EST
Afghan air strike kills civilians, Taliban fighters
A ground and air attack killed two Taliban commanders and six civilians in southwestern Afghanistan, the provincial governor said on Monday.
Afghan and international troops, acting on intelligence, raided a compound in the Bakwa district of Farah province late on Sunday, Mahaiddin Baloch said.
A Taliban commander who owned the house, Mullah Manan, managed to escape with four other fighters, but two other Taliban commanders in the compound were killed by a ground and air attack, Baloch said.
Six civilians were also killed, he said.
The issue of civilian casualties is sensitive as it saps support for the pro-Western Afghan government and foreign troops, and Afghan leaders regularly urge international forces to exercise care when choosing targets.
Earlier, the Farah provincial police chief said one woman, two children and four male civilians were killed in the attack.
A provincial official, who declined to be named, said the civilians killed were family members of the Taliban commander.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said none of its forces was involved in any incident in Farah. The separate U.S.-led coalition said it was checking the whether its troops were involved.
A total of 1,977 civilians were killed in fighting in Afghanistan last year, including nearly 240 who lost their lives in air strikes and another 240 killed in ground assaults by foreign troops, according to Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, a body that monitors security for non-governmental organizations.
The Taliban killed more than 950 civilians, it said.
Meanwhile, Afghan forces killed around 10 Taliban fighters during a sweep in the Deh Rawood district of Uruzgan province on Sunday, provincial police chief Juma Gul Hemat said. The operation, led by Afghan police, was still going on, he said.
Last year was the bloodiest in Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Two U.S. non-governmental studies last week said that without new international efforts to win the war and develop the economy, Afghanistan could once again become a failed state and terrorist haven.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to visit London this week to discuss strategy on Afghanistan.
By Sharafuddin Sharafyar