A NATO air attack in eastern Afghanistan has killed 10 children, said officials on Sunday, the latest case of civilian casualties which provoke great anger in the war-torn country.

The children were killed during a joint Afghan-NATO operation in the Shigal district of restive Kunar province bordering Pakistan late on Saturday.

An Afghan official involved in the operation who did not want to be named said air support was called in after local and coalition forces came under attack, resulting in the death of an American and injuries to several Afghan soldiers.

The official said the force did not know there were women and children in the houses that were hit.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces have been one of the most contentious issues in the 11-year campaign against Taliban militants, provoking harsh criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and angry public protests.

“Ten children and eight militants were killed in the strike, six women were wounded,” Wasifullah Wasifi, spokesman for Kunar province, told AFP.

Shigal district governor Abdul Zahir confirmed the death toll. He said people had brought the children’s bodies to the centre of the town and the wounded women were taken to Kunar’s central hospital.

Sayed Rahman, security commander of Shigal, said one women was also among the dead. “We have reports that 10 children and one woman have been killed in the air strike,” he said.

A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the strike but said up to 10 women and children were wounded in the attack rather than killed.

A U.S. civilian died in a militant attack at the scene, he said.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement the attack by coalition forces killed six Taliban including two senior commanders.

After an air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, in February, Mr. Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO air strikes.

However it is unclear whether the ban has been enforced and many operations are jointly run by NATO and Afghan forces. — AFP