NATO: 4 civilians killed in Afghanistan

By NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press WriterSat Jul 26, 4:57 AM ET

NATO forces on Saturday fired on a vehicle that wouldn’t stop at a checkpoint in Afghanistan’s volatile south, killing four civilians and wounding three others, the alliance said.

Civilian casualties has been a sore point between Afghanistan’s government and international forces that operate here.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has implored NATO and U.S.-led coalition troops to avoid killing civilians, whose deaths undermine support for his already weak central government.

The latest deaths occurred in Helmand province in the south, the hub of the resurgent Taliban militant movement.

NATO said the vehicle was directed to stop but drove on. NATO forces then fired warning shots away from the vehicle but were “forced to fire at it when it refused to stop, fearing an insurgent attack,” an alliance statement said.

NATO medical personnel tended to the wounded civilians, including taking them by helicopter to a hospital. The bodies of the dead were taken to their village by two civilians who were not hurt during the encounter.

NATO said it “deeply regrets this unnecessary incident caused by the reckless actions of the vehicle driver.”

Also, the U.S.-led coalition said its troops had killed an insurgent while hunting for a militant.

The troops were searching compounds in Kapisa province northeast of Kabul on Friday when they encountered a militant who threatened them, a coalition statement said. It did not say if the militant killed was the one they sought.

Separately, police killed a district Taliban commander in northern Takhar province, on Friday, the Interior Ministry said. Mullah Osman was killed after militants attacked a police checkpoint near a coal mine, a ministry’s statement said.

Afghanistan faces intensifying militancy nearly seven years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the hard-line Islamic Taliban movement from power.

More than 2,700 people — most of them militants — have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of official figures.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080726/ap_on_re_as/afghan_violence;_ylt=ApWe4wgVV34UZVszj0ltTXoBxg8F

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