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Coalition and Afghan forces engaged in a series of firefights that left at least eight civilians and a reported 25 militants dead in central Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Monday.

The civilian deaths are the latest in a string of incidents that have angered Afghan civilians and political leaders. This year has seen an escalation in fighting in many parts of the country, with civilians killed by both Taliban attacks and in coalition ground and air raids.

According to the U.S. command at Bagram air base, the latest instance occurred in the Khas Oruzgan District of Oruzgan province on Sunday.

"Multiple" ambushes were launched by militants from a series of buildings along a main coalition troop route, officials said. The militants then "fled into a neighboring compound where they held 11 non-combatants hostage, including several children and an infant."

The militants "ambushed the Coalition servicemembers from the compound that housed the non-combatants using small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades."

According to the U.S. military, the militants held the civilians and would not allow them to leave the buildings. Troops then called in close-air support on the compound; "they did not have knowledge of non-combatants in the buildings at that time," the release read.

When the fighting ended, coalition troops searched the compound.

"The Taliban uses innocent civilians’ homes, taking them by force to attack Afghan and Coalition forces," Juma Gul, the Head Provincial Police Chief of Oruzgan, was quoted as saying in the U.S. release.

"If civilians get killed during these attacks, the responsibility falls on the Taliban and their terrorist sponsors."


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