GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Afghan provincial authorities on Sunday were investigating reports that 20 private security guards were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike southwest of Kabul, two officials said.
U.S.-led forces called in the air strike to fend off an attack by Taliban insurgents on several posts of the local security company that guards a road construction project in the Giro district of Ghazni, a provincial government source said.
“According to the reports that we have received 20 people of the company have been killed in ... the coalition attack,” another official said.
A U.S. military spokesman said he had no information about the incident which comes just days after the Afghan government said a U.S. coalition air strike killed nine Afghan soldiers in a mistaken attack in the southeastern province of Khost.
Afghanistan has suffered a marked escalation of violence this year, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to give up al Qaeda leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed by foreign troops in operations against Taliban militants in Afghanistan this year, according to Afghan officials and aid groups.
While Taliban insurgents have killed more ordinary Afghans in their attacks, the issue of civilian casualties caused by international troops has led to a rift between the Afghan government and its Western backers.
The hardline Islamist Taliban have extended both the size and the scope of their insurgency in the last two years with scores of suicide and roadside bombs backing a campaign of guerrilla warfare and intimidation.
Taliban militants also abducted 17 employees of a construction company in the northeastern province of Kunar on Sunday, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.
The Taliban said they would only free the captives after the company, building a U.S.-led funded road, abandoned the project. (Additional reporting by Rohullah Anwari in Kunar; Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by David Fox)