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Afghan president orders inquiry into U.S. killings of 8 people

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation Friday into the killings of eight people in eastern Afghanistan during a raid that U.S. forces claimed targeted al-Qaida members, according to a government statement.

The U.S. military said seven al-Qaida suspects and a child were killed in Thursday's joint American-Afghan operation in eastern Kunar province's Shigal district. Police said the victims were civilians, not al-Qaida members.

The statement said Karzai had ordered a ``thorough investigation'' into the killings, including the death of a 10-year-old child. Kunar's governor and local lawmakers have gone a fact-finding trip to the area.

``While saddened by the loss of civilian lives, the president is awaiting the conclusion of the investigation,'' the statement said.

There have been numerous other incidents of civilians killed in coalition operations against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. In April, clashes between insurgents and U.S., Canadian and British troops in southern Afghanistan left 13 civilians dead.

The U.S.-led coalition and NATO say they go to extreme lengths to avoid inflicting civilian casualties and accuse insurgents of blending in with local populations while attacking foreign and Afghan soldiers.

Karzai, who depends on the U.S. military to back his weak government, has repeatedly demanded coalition forces take more care when conducting military operations to avoid civilians casualties.

Thursday's raid came a week after coalition aircraft destroyed two trucks used in an insurgent attack that killed an Afghan soldier in southeastern Paktika province. Afghan officials said 10 border police were killed in the strike.

Karzai quickly condemned coalition forces for that strike, but U.S. officials said they were confident that they had targeted militants and not police.
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