U.S.-led troops attacked a compound where Taliban leaders were meeting and killed 30 militants, American and Afghan military officials said Friday, but the Interior Ministry said a large number of civilians died. The U.S. said it would investigate.
The coalition was striking back against insurgents opposed to the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai who have stepped up attacks on foreign and Afghan troops.
The coalition said its troops called in airstrikes on the compound in the Shindand district of western Herat province Thursday.
Some 30 militants were killed and five others were detained, a spokesman, 1st Lt. Nathan Perry, said.
The troops found a haul of weapons and ammunition inside the compound, he said.
Afghan officials issued contradictory statements about what had happened and it was not immediately clear why they offered such differing accounts.
An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammad Zaher Azimi, confirmed the clash but said five of the 30 dead were civilians.
However, the Afghan Interior Ministry claimed U.S. coalition bombs killed 76 civilians, including 19 women and 50 children under the age of 15. The ministry called the bombing a “mistake.”
A U.S. military spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, said that a thorough assessment was done after the battle and that the coalition knew it killed 30 militants, including a high-ranking Taliban leader.
“We stand by our account and our reports and what we know and I can't reconcile why (the Interior Ministry) would have a different figure,” Nielson-Green said.
The operation was launched after an intelligence report that a Taliban commander, Mullah Siddiq, was inside the compound presiding over a meeting of militants, Azimi said.
Siddiq was one of those killed during the raid, Azimi said.