Village elders said Sunday they had recovered the bodies of 45 civilians, mostly women and children, killed in foreign air strikes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation.

NATO’s force, under fire over the number of civilian casualties, said however it believed fewer than a dozen villagers and a “significant number” of Taliban were killed in Friday’s bombardment in southern Helmand province.

With tensions high, Taliban fighters attacked troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the same area, Girishk district, killing a British soldier and wounding four others, the defence ministry in London said.

Sunday’s attack was followed by a suspected suicide bomb, ISAF said. Witnesses said a military vehicle was set ablaze. Three Afghan passers-by were also hurt, the government said.

Helmand province is among the most volatile areas of Afghanistan, with extremist Taliban militants said to be teamed up with foreign “jihadists” and illegal opium traders.

Friday’s air strikes by ISAF and the separate US-led coalition were called in after troops trying to clear the Helmand River of Taliban fighters came under heavy attack, military forces have said.


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