NATO says air strike kills dozen insurgents in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — NATO war planes killed a dozen Taliban rebels in southern Afghanistan after bombing the vehicle in which they were travelling, the alliance said Tuesday, rejecting claims several civilians were killed.

The air strike late Monday followed a Taliban attack on International Security Assistance Force soldiers, the ISAF said in a statement.

The strike was called in against three vehicles “positively identified carrying insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles which fired upon ISAF,” it said.

“ISAF positively confirmed one vehicle was destroyed and an estimated 12 insurgents were killed.”

The force said the attack was in a remote area of Helmand province in an “isolated area where there was no housing or civilian activity.”

A parliamentarian from the area told AFP he had received phone calls from people in the region who said the bomb had struck a group of local men gathered for a stone-throwing competition and dozens were killed.

“I was told 50 people were killed, which comprises of 18 Taliban and the rest of them civilians gathered for the game,” Amir Dad Mohammad told AFP.

A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said the bombing had killed 40 civilians. But police said they could not confirm the claim.

The Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 following a US-led invasion of Afghanistan. They are accused of taking shelter in populated areas and using civilians as “human shields”.

Last year was the deadliest of the rebel insurgency, with more than 8,000 people killed, most of them rebels, but including about 1,500 of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

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