NATO officials said Wednesday that they are taking seriously allegations by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that more than 50 civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike in volatile Helmand province last week. But so far, they say they have been unable to confirm that the incident happened.

A joint Afghan-NATO team is expected to return to Kabul Wednesday after traveling to the Sangin district in northern Helmand, where a building was bombed on July 23.

Col. Wayne Shanks, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Forces, said the coalition is investigating Karzai’s allegation but that “we still have not had any credible evidence that in fact there were civilian casualties in this particular attack.”

Shanks said on the day of the alleged civilian deaths, NATO forces were getting shot at “several kilometers” away from a building that was bombed. Troops on the ground directed attack helicopters to the position that was bombed, he said.

The joint assessment conducted this week will determine whether a full investigation is warranted, Shanks said.

Some residents of the town of Regey told the British newspaper The Guardian this week that they believed foreign forces deliberately attacked them as they hid from fighting in a mud house.

“The Americans can see tiny things on the ground, but they could not see us,” Haji Abdul Ghafar, a 38-year-old farmer who had fled to Regey from a nearby village, told the Guardian. “I think they bombed us on purpose.”

In the past year, coalition troops have worked to minimize civilian deaths, saying they alienate the local population and push them to side with the insurgents. Such incidents have also driven a wedge between Kabul and NATO.On Wednesday, Shanks sought to distinguish between the way civilian deaths are handled by NATO and the insurgents.“If there’s a civilian casualty incident, we will take appropriate responsibility for our actions,” he said. “The insurgents won’t.”

Regey is bounded by two rivers and used as a safe haven where locals can escape fighting between insurgents and foreign forces, according to The Guardian.

“There has never been fighting in Regey because people thought that the military or Taliban will not cross the river,” Haji Fazul Haq, a former Sangin district governor, told The Guardian. “People have always thought this is the best place to be safe.”

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