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US-led coalition troops killed three men, two children and a woman, in a raid in southeastern Afghanistan, the district chief and village residents said on Wednesday.
They said the victims, from the families of two brothers, were all civilians, but the US military said the two brothers were involved in conducting improvised explosive device operations.
The issue of civilian casualties is a sensitive one as it undermines public support for the presence of foreign troops and the pro-Western government of President Hamid Karzai.
"We will join the jihad" and "Death to Bush", chanted residents of the village of Muqibel in the province of Khost where the incident happened overnight.
Foreign troops raided two adjacent houses belonging to two brothers and killed three men, two children and a woman from the two families, district governor Gul Qasim told Reuters.
The children, both boys no older than 10-years-old bore bullet wounds to the head and chest, a Reuters witness said.
A large angry crowd of men gathered as villagers helped the local imam wash the bodies before burial. Women could be heard screaming and wailing from inside the houses.
Troops were searching the compounds for one of the brothers when they came under fire, the US military said.
"Several armed militants, two of whom were barricaded in a building, opened fire on coalition forces after they entered the compound," coalition spokesman Major Chris Belcher said in a statement. "Coalition forces returned fire killing Bismullah, his brother Rahim Jan, as well as several other armed militants."
Troops discovered the bodies of a woman and a child in the buildings after the fighting, the statement said, blaming the militants for putting the woman and child in harm's way.
Two men were detained during the raid, the US military and residents said.
The US-led coalition has about 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, separate from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), involved in anti-terror operations.
The killings came a day after two members of parliament said ISAF planes had killed more than 30 people, including civilians, in the southern province of Helmand.
ISAF denied any civilians were killed in the airstrike which it said killed around 12 Taliban insurgents travelling in three vehicles on an isolated road some distance from any houses. It was impossible to independently verify the conflicting accounts. (Reuters)
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