Foreign forces in Afghanistan on Monday apologised for the deaths of nine Afghan civilians after President Hamid Karzai criticised an air strike which he and officials said killed 14, including children.

The statement said the strike in the southern province of Helmand was carried out on Saturday after insurgents who had earlier killed a patrolling marine hid in a compound and carried on firing.

The compound hit by the air strike was home to civilians. Local officials had said five girls, seven boys and two women were among those killed.

“I want to offer my sincere apologies for the nine civilians who were killed during the incident in Now Zad District, Helmand province, that occurred on 28 May,” said a statement from Major-General John Toolan, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander for the southwest region of Afghanistan.

He stressed it was the coalition's “top priority” to avoid civilian casualties. A full investigation was under way, he added.

“While I know there is no price on human life, we will ensure that we make amends with the families in accordance with Afghan culture,” said Major-General Toolan.

The apology came after Mr. Karzai's office issued what it said was a “last warning” to the U.S. and NATO-led troops over civilian casualties following Saturday's incident, which it described as a “great mistake”.


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