The NATO-led force in Afghanistan has urged parents to tell their children not to play with toy guns around military patrols, warning they could be mistaken for the real thing.
The plea comes after a series of incidents in which International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers, a target of Taliban attacks, have shot and killed civilians fearing they may have been attackers about to strike.
ISAF said in a statement late on Thursday that its troops had reported an increase in the number of replica or toy guns being played with by children around military patrols, which was a concern for patrol commanders.
The increase may have come after the just-ended Eid holidays, when children may have been given toy guns as presents, it said.
"Playing with them and pointing them at patrolling ISAF troops is a dangerous practice, which could result in troops mistaking the replica weapons for real ones, and reacting to protect themselves," the statement said.
"I would urge parents to ensure that their children do not play with toy guns around patrolling troops. Some of the toy guns are very lifelike and can easily be mistaken by troops as the real thing," spokesman Major Dominic Whyte said.
ISAF, which has more than 33,000 troops from 37 countries across the country, said this week one of its biggest mistakes last year was that it killed too many civilians as it went after the Taliban and other rebels.
Around 1,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Taliban-linked unrest last year, including suicide and roadside bomb blasts carried out by the rebels and foreign force air and ground strikes against suspected militants.