Afghan officials say a NATO airstrike killed eight women and girls who were out gathering firewood before dawn on Sunday in a remote region on the east of the country. The coalition says it believes only insurgents were hit.

Villagers from Laghman province’s Alingar district brought the bodies to the Governor’s office in the provincial capital, said Sarhadi Zewak, a spokesman for the provincial government.

“They were shouting ‘Death to America!’ They were condemning the attack,” Mr. Zewak said.

Seven injured women and children, some of them as young as 10-years-old, were brought to area hospitals for treatment, said provincial health director Latif Qayumi.

NATO forces at first said that about 45 insurgents and no civilians were killed in the attack but spokesman Jamie Graybeal stressed later that they took the charge of civilian deaths seriously and were investigating the allegations. He said, however, that initial reports showed only insurgents were killed in the airstrike.

Airstrikes have been a particularly sensitive issue between the Afghan people who say civilians often end up killed along with or instead of insurgents and NATO forces who maintain that they are a key tactic for going after insurgent leaders.

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