An Afghan police official said on Monday that eight civilians were killed in a NATO raid in the southern province of Kandahar, but the alliance claimed the victims were Taliban fighters.

The military attacked two houses early Monday morning in Bagh—e—Pul area of Kandahar City, Mohammad Shah Farooqi, the deputy provincial police chief, said.

Mr. Farooqi said there was no evidence to show that the men inside were involved in any “anti—government activities.” But NATO said its troops assisted by Afghan forces killed “a Taliban commander and several armed individuals” during the raid.

It said Taliban field commander Shyster Uhstad Khan was involved in the distribution of roadside bombs in the region.

“The Afghan—led security force went to a compound outside Kandahar City to search the area and was immediately engaged by hostile fire,” it said. “Afghan and coalition forces returned fire in self defence and killed several armed individuals including Khan.” One suspect allegedly involved in transporting bombs to Kabul was arrested, NATO added.

Civilian casualties at the hands of NATO—led troops is the most delicate issue in Afghanistan. Such deaths are a chief source of tension between the government and international military officials in the country.

U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, former NATO commander in Afghanistan, had drafted a new guideline to limit the use of lethal force in populated areas in an effort to reduce civilian casualties.

Afghan officials expressed concerns that the U.S. strategy could change since Gen. McChrystal was sacked by President Barack Obama last week over his comments critical of US officials.

U.S. officials said the new commander, U.S. general David Petraeus, would place emphasis on protecting civilians.

More In: International | News