February 6, 2009 / 8:58 AM / 11 years ago

Afghans say U.S.-led raid kills six in south

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces have killed six people during a raid in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, Afghan officials said on Friday.

Afghanistan has seen a sharp escalation of violence in recent years and is going through its bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

The victims in the latest incident were six civilian males from two families, said Mohammad Hashim, a member of Zabul’s provincial council.

Deputy provincial governor Gulab Shah Alikheil confirmed that six people were killed in an overnight operation, but could not say wether they were civilians or Taliban insurgents.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. military said she was unaware of the incident and would check.

Civilian casualties at the hands of Western troops anger the Western-backed government and are rapidly undermining public backing for it and for Western forces, analysts say.

About 2,100 Afghan civilians were killed last year, more than a third of them by foreign and Afghan forces, according to the United Nations.

Nearly 70,000 foreign troops under the command of NATO and the U.S. military are struggling to defeat the al Qaeda-backed Taliban who have made a come-back since 2005.

The United States is expected to nearly double its force in Afghanistan from 36,000 to more than 60,000 within 18 months to battle an increasingly intense insurgency.

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