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8 civilians killed in NATO airstrike in Afghanistan

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition officials are investigating reports that eight civilians – including six children – were killed when their home in the eastern province of Paktia was bombed on Saturday by a coalition aircraft.

There were no survivors in the attack, which took place around 8 p.m. in Gerda Serai district, completely destroying the house of a local man, said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for Paktia’s governor.

“The head of the family, Mohammad Shafi, his wife and six children were all martyred (killed),” said Samoon.

“Mohammad Shafi is not on the black list of our security forces,” Samoon added. “That means he was neither Al Qaida nor Taliban.”

He said that Afghan security forces in the area had not been contacted before the strike by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the formal name for the U.S.-led coalition.

“Our concern is that ISAF troops don’t share these issues with the Afghan security forces,” Samoon told McClatchy. “If they had shared this with us, this (tragedy) wouldn’t have happened.”

ISAF spokesperson Lieutenant Lauren Rago said initial coalition reports indicated ISAF troops in southern Paktia were attacked by a large group of insurgents and had responded by returning fire and calling for air support.

“More information may be released as appropriate,” said Rago.

A statement from President Hamid Karzai’s office said he had dispatched a delegation to investigate the reported bombing.

Coalition air strikes that result in civilian casualties have long been a source of intense anger among Afghans, including Karzai, who has repeatedly criticized such incidents. The coalition has in recent years introduced strict rules for air strikes designed to reduce the number of killed or injured civilians.

In other violence, two civilians were killed and one wounded Sunday in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack at Marjah district in the restive southern province of Helmand, said a statement from the Helmand governor’s office.

The statement said security forces had arrested a suspect from Waziristan, a lawless tribal area in Pakistan that borders Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, ISAF confirmed Sunday that four of its service members had been killed on Saturday in four separate IED attacks in southern Afghanistan.

ISAF refused to release details about the location and nationality of those killed. However, Britain’s ministry of defense confirmed that one of its soldiers had been killed on Saturday when his vehicle was hit by an IED in Helmand province.

Special correspondent Ali Safi contributed reporting from Kabul.