Afghan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed that a recent US-led NATO air strike killed at least 52 civilians including several women and children.
Karzai said on Monday that NATO troops fired a rocket that killed “52 innocent civilians” in southern Afghanistan.
The government sources say that the attack happened on Friday when civilians crammed into a house to flee the exchange of fire between NATO troops and alleged militants.
The late Friday bombardment took place in the city of Sangin in southern Helmand Province.
The incident followed a similar one in which US-led helicopter gunships fired on villagers who were fleeing to safety.
The Afghan president ordered an investigation into the deadly strike. NATO says it has launched its own inquiry into the incident but has refused to provide further details.
The issue of civilian casualties has caused friction between Washington and the Karzai government in Kabul.
Civilian casualties are on the rise despite a promise by the new commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. General David Petraeus vowed earlier this month that protecting civilian lives would his top priority.
US-led forces in Afghanistan regularly launch attacks on alleged militant hideouts, but the strikes usually result in civilian casualties.
Civilians have been the main victims of violence in Afghanistan, particularly in the country’s troubled southern and eastern provinces, where they fall victim to both militant and foreign fire.