The top U.S. generals in Afghanistan are apologising for an airstrike that killed civilians in south-western Afghanistan.

Gen. David Petraeus, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez and the commander of the southwest say NATO’s top priority is to prevent civilian casualties and it takes such cases very seriously. In a joint statement issued early Monday by U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, they said the airstrike took place after a U.S. Marine was killed and five insurgents took cover in a compound and kept fighting. It said the compound had civilians inside.

Mr. Toolan said the airstrike resulted in nine civilians deaths. The number differs from that given by some Afghan officials, who say as many as 12 children and two women were killed.

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