Coalition forces said Sunday that they were investigating allegations that more than 50 civilians were killed in a recent operation in a remote part of northeast Afghanistan.
The International Security Assistance Force denied that civilians had been hurt in the four-day operation last week in the largely Taliban-controlled district of Ghazi Abad in Kunar province, insisting that only insurgents were killed.
Civilian casualties, most often caused by airstrikes, are a source of deep tension between the U.S.-led international coalition and the government of President Hamid Karzai. The coalition has altered its operating methods to try to reduce accidental deaths, which undermine public support while it tries to fight a raging insurgency.
Mohammad Shah, a 38-year-old resident of Ghazi Abad district, said that 70 people had been killed or injured in the operation, which he said involved Afghan and U.S. troops. He said coalition forces blocked a road to the area following the attack, hampering efforts to get the wounded to hospital.
"After the attack, the road was closed by American soldiers. Only after an appeal by the district chief was one vehicle allowed through to get the injured," said Shah, speaking by phone from a hospital in the provincial capital, Asadabad. "Nine of my relatives were injured."