KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — At least six Afghan civilians were killed and seven wounded in a U.S. airstrike in the southern province of Oruzgan, Afghan officials said Saturday.
Many of the casualties in the Friday night raid on a village were women and children, said a provincial government official who declined to be identified.
Six people had been killed and seven wounded, said a police officer, who also declined to be identified. A Pakistan-based Afghan news agency said three women and four men had been killed.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said he was unaware of any civilian casualties.
He said U.S. aircraft had pounded suspected Taliban positions in the province Friday morning, not evening, in retaliation for the killing of two U.S. soldiers Thursday in a clash in which five militants also were killed. He said the airstrikes in the Tarin Kowt area killed three more suspected militants.
"I have no information that indicates coalition forces killed any civilians in Oruzgan," he said. "Certainly I have no reports that women or children were killed."
U.S.-led forces have stepped up a hunt for Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, including Osama bin Laden, in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The operation, launched since March 7, is codenamed "Mountain Storm."
The U.S. has been criticized by many Afghans and rights groups for civilian casualties incurred in its post-Sept. 11 pursuit of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters and their allies.
The United Nations has called for details of investigations into such incidents to be made public.