A US air strike in southern Afghanistan has killed up to 25 civilians, a local police chief said today.

The victims included women, children and a cleric as well as 20 suspected Taliban militants, according to Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the Helmand province police chief.

The air strike – which happened late yesterday – was launched in response to an attack on police posts near the town of Gereshk by militants.

It killed 25 civilians including nine women, three babies and the mullah of a local mosque, Mr Andiwal said.

In a statement, Nato said a compound “assessed to have been occupied by up to 30 insurgent fighters, most of whom were killed in the engagement”, had been attacked.

“We are concerned about reports that some civilians may have lost their lives during this attack,” Lieutenant Colonel Mike Smith, a Nato spokesman, said.

However, he blamed the deaths on Taliban fighters for sheltering among civilians.


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