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NATO says civilians 'accidentally killed' in Afghanistan airstrike

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The operation aimed to kill or capture a senior Taliban commander
  • NATO says "intelligence reporting" led them to target two vehicles
  • This comes as tensions flared over the issue of other civilian deaths

(CNN) -- Civilians were accidentally killed during a NATO airstrike in Afghanistan, the organization's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement Saturday.

The statement did not specify how many civilians were killed and wounded in the Friday operation in Helmand province, which aimed to kill or capture a senior Taliban commander.

The airstrike hit two vehicles "believed to be carrying the Taliban leader and his associates based on intelligence reporting," the statement said.

The force is investigating.

Earlier this month tensions flared over the issue of civilian casualties caused by the NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan after nine Afghan boys died in a helicopter attack targeting Taliban insurgents.

In a visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the killings, saying the incident "breaks our hearts."

Karzai responded by saying he accepted the apology in remarks intended to show that his government was moving past the incident despite public anger over the killings and the continuing presence of the U.S.-led military force.

"While we take the apology with a lot of respect, agree with it and accept it today, I would request Secretary Gates that you take the plea of the Afghan people to Washington that these civilian casualties stop and make the utmost effort so that we

don't have them anymore," Karzai said.

CNN's Matiullah Mati contributd to this report.