A NATO airstrike in southern Afghan province of Helmand killed 14 civilians including women and children, a government spokesman said Sunday.

The raid in Nawzad district was initiated after U.S. Marines came under Taliban fire, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.

“The foreign forces called for air support and NATO aircraft bombed two civilian homes,” Daud Ahmadi said.

“Five girls, seven boys and two women were martyred and three children, a woman and two men were injured in the bombardment,” Mr. Ahmadi said.

Tim James, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the alliance “is aware of alleged civilian casualties” and the southern regional command was investigating.

Civilian casualties at the hands of international forces have been the most delicate issue between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO military officials.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai ordered the Defence Ministry to prevent foreign troops from uncoordinated operations and to take control of all night raids.

The directive is likely to create tension between his government and NATO, as alliance commander U.S. General David Petraeus has hailed such operations.

NATO said dozens of insurgents are killed and detained each month in night raids, which have often resulted in civilian deaths.

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