US probe finds fewer Afghan deaths than UN claimed

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A U.S. investigation into allegations that dozens of civilians were killed in fighting around an Afghan village last month has found that only seven of the dead were civilians.

An Afghan government commission had concluded that 90 civilians were killed in the battle and that claim was supported by a preliminary U.N. report. No conclusive photos or video have been made public to back the claim, but Afghanistan's intelligence service is said to have some.

The U.S. report says 30 to 35 of those killed were Taliban fighters. It says American and Afghan troops began taking fire from militants as they approached the village and that "justified use of well-aimed small-arms fire and close air support."

The U.S. says its casualty numbers were determined by observation of enemy movements during the engagement and on-site observations immediately after the battle. The report leaves open the possibility that evidence could emerge to prove that more people died.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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