KABUL, Afghanistan – KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — NATO acknowledged an undetermined number of Afghan civilians were killed Thursday in fighting with the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan and promised to provide compensation to their families.
Also Thursday, a suicide car bomber struck a convoy of NATO troops and Afghan police in northern Afghanistan, killing seven police officers and wounding at least 11 people. A Canadian Chinook helicopter went down in the south, Afghanistan, slightly injuring eight soldiers, the Canadian military said. The Taliban claimed they shot down the aircraft.
The civilian deaths occurred in two separate attacks before dawn Thursday in eastern Nangarhar province, local officials said. Eight members of an extended family died when a helicopter opened fire on vehicles carrying the family and the body of a flood victim to their home village, according to Haji Mohammed Hassan, chief of Khogyani district of Nangarhar.
Separately, 13 people were killed when U.S. and Afghan forces raided a compound in the Sherzad district, according to village elder Rahmatullah Sherzad.
NATO first reported that a joint force targeted a compound in the village of Khwazakheyl in the province's Sherzad district looking for a Taliban commander. Troops took fire from three locations as they approached the compound. They returned fire, killing "several insurgents," the NATO statement said.
Troops found 10 rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, grenades and a recoilless rifle at the scene, the statement added.
Sherzad, the village elder, told The Associated Press by telephone that the joint force surrounded the home of a villager, Mohammad Jan. Family members opened fire because they feared for their safety, he said, insisting they were not Taliban.
Later, NATO issued a second statement saying "it appears that between four and a dozen or more civilians were killed" during operations in Nangarhar. The statement said between 15 and 20 insurgents, including two senior Taliban commanders, were killed in the fighting in Khwazakheyl. It made no mention of an air attack against vehicles.
"Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life and we express our sincerest condolences to the families," said Rear Adm. Greg Smith, director of communication for the NATO-led force. "We will partner with the government of Afghanistan to conduct a thorough investigation" and to compensate the families of civilians "killed during the engagement."
Civilian casualties at the hands of international forces are a major source of friction between President Hamid Karzai's government and the international coalition, even though the U.N. says most of the deaths are due to Taliban attacks. NATO has imposed strict rules limiting the use of force, even though troops complain it puts them at risk and gives the insurgents an advantage.
The suicide bombing occurred early Thursday in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province. In addition to the deaths, six police and five civilians were wounded, the Interior Ministry said. No NATO troops were killed in the bombing but some were wounded, a NATO spokesman, Maj. Michael Johnson, said.
Insurgent activity in Kunduz and other northern provinces has been increasing in recent months as the insurgency spreads into areas beyond the militants' longtime bases in the south and east of the country.
The Canadian helicopter went down in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold near Kandahar city.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, told the AP by telephone that the helicopter was shot down with a rocket. NATO officials said they were investigating the cause.
"I heard something like an explosion, so I ran out and saw the smoke in the air and the helicopter falling. It hit the ground and then there was a huge blast," said shopkeeper Abdul Mateen.
He and others ran to the field where it crashed and said fire had engulfed the helicopter.
In neighboring Helmand province, the government said that a roadside bomb killed nine civilians in Khan Neshin district on Tuesday. And in Zabul province, a regional Taliban commander died from injuries from a NATO attack two days ago, according to district government chief Abdul Qayum.
Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar and Heidi Vogt in Kabul contributed to this report.