Civilians killed after attack on U.S. convoy in Afghanistan

A busy highway in eastern Afghanistan was the scene of carnage on Sunday as U.S. troops retaliated after being hit by a suicide bombing and gunfire.

A busy highway in eastern Afghanistan was the scene of carnage on Sunday as U.S. troops retaliated after being hit by a suicide bombing and gunfire.

At least eight Afghan civilians were reported killed and 34 others wounded.

The initial attack, which U.S. military officials described as "complex," began when a suicide attacker detonated a minivan filled with explosives as a U.S. convoy approached.

At the same time, gunmen started shooting, and the Americans returned fire.

One member of the U.S. force was wounded.

Afterward, Americans reportedly treated every car and person travelling along the busy highway in the area as a potential attacker, Mohammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar, told the Associated Press.

More than a half dozen Afghans recuperating from bullet wounds told AP that the U.S. forces had fired indiscriminately on passing vehicles.

"They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway," said Tur Gul, 38, who was standing on the roadside by a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand.

"They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot."

A freelance photographer and a television cameraman working for AP said a U.S. soldier deleted their photos and video showing a four-wheel-drive vehicle in which three people were shot to death. The shooting took place about 100 metres from the suicide bombing.

The gunfire from Americans prompted angry demonstrations in the region.

"We regret the death of innocent Afghan citizens as a result of the Taliban extremists' cowardly act," U.S. spokesman Lt.-Col. David Accetta said in a statement.

Taliban leaflets issue warning

The attack came at a time when the Taliban have been distributing leaflets in the south, warning of a new offensive, Reuters reported.

One leaflet distributed in the town of Spin Boldak said people should keep their distance from gatherings of foreign or Afghan forces and their convoys.

As news spread about American shooting of civilians, crowds gathered near the eastern city of Jalalabad, with some throwing stones at police.

British soldiers killed in Helmand

Insouthern Afghanistan, two British soldiers were killed in a rocket attack, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Sunday.

At Kandahar airfield British flags have been lowered to half-mast, the CBC's Tom Parry reported from Afghanistan.

The soldiers were part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Both were killed in a rocket attack on Saturday in the southern Helmand province.

Residents in the area told Reuters there had been heavy fightingin Helmandon Saturday.

"The deaths of the two soldiers comes at a time when both NATO and Taliban insurgents are talking about the possibility of a spring offensive. There has been a lull in the fighting over the winter," Parry said.

With files from the Associated Press