Coincides with Obama’s withdrawal announcement

A NATO airstrike struck two houses, killing nine Afghan civilians and four insurgents in a province near the Pakistani border, said officials on Wednesday.

The attack occurred on Tuesday night, during a joint NATO-Afghan operation, in the Shigal district of Kunar province, said the local MP. The U.S.-led military alliance in Kabul said it was looking into the reports.

Wagma Sapay, the MP, said the civilians killed — five children and four women — were in one house while four senior Taliban leaders were slain as they gathered next door. Police confirmed the death toll as nine.

Provincial Governor Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi said the local government had not been informed about plans for the strike. He put the death toll at eight — four women and four children. The killing of civilians has been one of the most contentious issues in the 11-year war.

Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said the alliance was aware of the allegations of civilian casualties in Kunar but could not confirm any details.

“We take these allegations very seriously and we are in the process of determining the circumstances surrounding this incident,” he said.

U.N. panel’s charge

The attack came as President Barack Obama announced that he would bring home within a year about half of the 66,000 U.S. troops, in a step toward withdrawing all foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.

The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child, the U.N. body monitoring the rights of children, had said last week that attacks by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, including airstrikes, have reportedly killed hundreds of children over the last four years. ISAF dismissed that claim.