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Originally published Monday, July 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Afghanistan says U.S. air attack killed 27 civilians

Local officials in eastern Afghanistan said Sunday that a U.S. airstrike killed at least 27 civilians in a wedding party, most of them...

The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Local officials in eastern Afghanistan said Sunday that a U.S. airstrike killed at least 27 civilians in a wedding party, most of them women and children and including the bride. Officials of the U.S.-led coalition disputed the report; they said the airstrike killed extremists and that there was no evidence of women and children at the scene.

The attack Sunday in the Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province was the second in the past three days in which civilian deaths were reported.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered an investigation into a helicopter strike Friday in Nuristan province in which the provincial governor said 22 civilians had been killed and seven wounded.

The U.S. military has also disputed that account; it says only people who had been firing on coalition forces were hit.

The governor of Deh Bala, Hamisha Gul, said the airstrike on Sunday came while a group of women and children were walking from the bride's village, Kamalai, to the groom's home.

Gul said residents had reported finding "so far 27 bodies, including two men, and the others are all women and children." The bride was among the dead, he said.

Dr. Ajmal Pardis, director of public health in Nangarhar province, said the hospital in Jalalabad, its capital, had received five patients, three women and two men, wounded in the airstrike.

A statement from the coalition forces in Afghanistan said several extremists were killed in the airstrike, which was ordered after the forces received intelligence reports of a large gathering of combatants in Deh Bala.

"We have no reports of civilian casualties, and there were no women and children there," said Capt. Christian Patterson, a coalition spokesman.

Gul said that he had heard reports of extremists being in the area but that all of the dead were civilians.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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