KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An explosion killed seven Afghan villagers Sunday as they tried to pull bodies of insurgents killed from the rubble of a village mosque after a night raid by NATO and Afghan troops in the country's east, officials said. Four insurgents and an Afghan soldier were also reported to have been killed.
The predawn operation in Sayedabad district was aimed at capturing a Taliban fighter who had holed up in a village, said Wardak province spokesman Shahidullah Shahid . The international and Afghan forces captured their target but came under attack from insurgents, sparking a two-hour gunfight during which at least one large blast sounded, he said. Four insurgents were dead by the time fighting ended around 4:30 a.m.
Then at about 6 a.m. local time, residents came out to find the local mosque partly destroyed and started digging through the rubble to uncover bodies. Shahid says something exploded as they dug, killing seven civilians. He says the insurgents were wearing suicide vests, but it was not immediately clear if that caused the explosion.
A spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan confirmed that four insurgents were killed but did not have any immediate reports of civilian deaths.
"I am aware of reports that indicate there may have been civilians killed and ISAF and Afghan officials are assessing the situation to determine the facts," said Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan.
He said that there was no airstrike as part of the operation, but that the NATO and Afghan troops did discover a large cache of weapons, which they destroyed there on the site, causing a large explosion.
The NATO force said in a statement that an Afghan soldier was also killed in the operation.