Afghan officials on Friday were tallying the number of civilians wounded during a late-night NATO and U.S.-led air strike, after receiving reports up to 300 residents were hurt or killed in Helmand province.
In a telephone interview with the Reuters news service, Helmand's police chief, Mohammad Hussein Andiwal,said there were "heavy bombardments" during raids Thursday in the Baghran district.
"We have heard of heavy casualties, too, and have sent a team to investigate this," he said.
Andiwal said that more than 20 wounded civilians were rushed for treatment at a main hospital in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.Other wounded civilians were transferred to hospitals in Kandahar.
Reuters reported that provincial officials and residents were saying between 200and 300 civilians were killed or wounded following a NATO and U.S.-led precision air strike targeting insurgents.
If the death tolls are confirmed, it could be the worst incident of foreign troops causing civilian casualties since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001, Reuters reported.
In a statement released late Thursday, the U.S. military confirmed it launched a military operation meant to target a pair of "notorious Taliban commanders"gathered fora meeting.
"Coalition forces employed precision-guided munitions on their location after ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area," the statement said. It was not known whether the two insurgent leaders were killed or if they escaped the strike and the statement gave no details of casualties.
According to a Reuters report, some residents said the bombs fell while hundreds of locals were watching a Taliban-organized public hanging of two locals accused of spying on behalf of the Afghan government.
The Taliban, however, denied there was any execution, saying that the air strikes killed only civilians who were gathering for a religious ceremony.