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Karzai orders probe into civilian killings

world Updated: Jul 02, 2007 05:21 IST

President Hamid Karzai appointed on Sunday a commission to investigate claims of heavy civilian casualties in anti-Taliban bombing raids by the US-led and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan this week.

Elders reported to local authorities that they had recovered the bodies of 45 civilians killed in the air strikes on two villages in Helmand province on Friday, but the figures have not been independently verified.

"There are reports of civilian casualties during military operations," the president's spokesman, Karim Rahimi, said.

"The president has appointed a team and has ordered an investigation.”

The team of government officials and parliamentarians from the province had been sent to the area.

There have been conflicting claims about the number of civilians killed.

The US-led coalition said the bodies of eight were found among dead militants in the trenches, while locals claimed scores of ordinary villagers were dead or wounded.

Tensions are already high over the number of ordinary people killed in foreign military operations against Taliban insurgents.

Karzai last week angrily accused foreign soldiers of an "extreme use of force."