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Reports of 8 Afghan civilians killed in airstrike are disputed by coalition Evidence awaited in family fatalities

The U.S.-led coalition Sunday disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said an airstrike Saturday night killed eight members of a family, but a senior NATO official said that so far, there is no evidence of any civilian casualties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Separately, NATO reported that three service members from the coalition were killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan -- two during an insurgent attack and one from a roadside bombing.

Four others, including a British soldier, were killed in the south Saturday, bringing to 169 the number of NATO deaths in Afghanistan so far this year. The British Ministry of Defense said the soldier was killed in an explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj region of southern Helmand province. The nationalities of the other three have not been disclosed.

The coalition said that it was working to find out more about allegations that civilians were killed in the NATO operation that foreign forces were conducting Saturday night in Paktia province.

The killing of civilians by foreign forces has been a major irritant in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's relationship with his international partners. He warned earlier this month that civilian casualties could undermine a strategic partnership with the United States that is to govern long-term relations after most international troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

Karzai appointed a delegation to travel to Paktia province and determine what happened.

Frequently, Afghan and coalition officials offer differing accounts of military operations.

In those cases, local residents contend that civilians were killed, while the coalition says the victims had been identified as insurgents. Later, if investigations prove that civilians were inadvertently killed, the coalition acknowledges its mistake.

Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said Mohammad Shafi, his wife and their six children were killed in the airstrike at about 8 p.m. in Suri Khail village of Gurda Saria district.

"Shafi was not a Taliban. He was not in any opposition group against the government. He was a villager," Samon said. "Right now, we are working on this case to find out the ages of their children."

Such attacks damage the civilian population's trust in international troops who have been fighting in the country for more than a decade.

Taliban attacks have killed more civilians than foreign forces, but public anger over the issue is usually directed at the international forces.