JALALABAD, Afghanistan — The NATO command in Afghanistan announced Monday that it was investigating a case in Nangarhar province in which troops might have accidentally killed Afghan civilians, a day after local officials in neighboring Kunar province said 64 Afghan civilians had been killed in raids there.

Lt. Col. William B. Johnson, commander of 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, visited Monday with Nangarhar governor, Gul Agha Sherzai and apologized for killing a family of six.

The previous night in his area of operations in western Nangarhar, there had been a night raid to capture a high-value target in one district, while in another an airstrike killed four bomb planters. In the process, a stray round killed the family, Johnson explained.

“We were targeting the [Improvised Explosive Device] emplacers — known bad guys,” he told the governor in his ornate receiving room in Jalalabad palace. “In six months on the ground, we’ve never killed or injured any civilians,” Johnson said. “We’re investigating what went wrong.”

Johnson later said privately that the decision to shoot was a good one, but that there was an obvious error, whether mechanical or committed by a person, which was being investigated.

“I’ll absolutely change the error,” he said, adding that relatives will be compensated for the deaths.

He said he immediately dispatched his commander in Khogyani district to explain to the people what happened.

“I think we’ve been first with the truth, which is why the police chief and district governor understood it as a mistake,” Johnson, 41, of Bristol, Tenn., later said. He said the district and provincial governor dissuaded the people from staging a protest against the errant strike.

Sherzai listened to Johnson, nodding. He lit a cigarette.

“In war sometimes you make mistakes, but you guys have to try your best not to,” Sherzai told Johnson. “The enemy is placing IEDs, but we have to try not to let the enemies have propaganda with the local people.”

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