KANDAHAR: The Afghan government in Kandaharon Monday accused NATO troops of opening fire on a bus, killing four civilians, including a woman and a child, and wounding 18 others.
The NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is deployed in Afghanistan to help the Western-backed Afghan government defeat a nearly nine-year Taliban insurgency, said it was investigating the incident.
The Afghan administration in Kandahar, which is the spiritual stronghold of the Taliban, said NATO troops opened fire after the bus approached a military convoy on the opposite side of a highway in thesouthern province.
"Four civilians were killed," the statement said, adding that the dead included women and a child. The bus was driving to the western province of Herat, it added.
NATO troops in the convoy evacuated a dozen of the wounded to an alliance-run hospital for treatment, the statement said.
An ISAF spokesman said the military was "aware of an incident resulting in civilian casualties" in Kandahar on Monday.
A joint team of ISAF and Afghan investigators have travelled to the region to investigate the incident, the spokesman added.
Civilian casualties are deeply sensitive in Afghanistan, often used by politicians and the Taliban to whip up public opposition to the 126,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Monday's incident is the latest in a recent series of admissions, suspicion or accusations of civilian casualties during Western military operations.
Last week, the military said a NATO air strike targeting suspected militants in the south mistakenly killed four civilians, including two women and a child.
ISAF admitted killing three women in a botched raid in February, having initially denied involvement, and separately ordered a probe into how four children were injured during fighting in the north.
The head of US and NATO troops, General Stanley McChrystal, has introduced tactical changes to reduce the risks to civilians, like paring back air strikes and raids on residences as part of a sweeping new counter-insurgency strategy.
President Hamid Karzai, widely criticised for blaming massive fraud during his re-election on the international community, has welcomed the change of approach but also called for more changes, such as an end to house searches.
The United Nations has pointed out, however, that the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths -- put last year at 2,412 -- are caused by Taliban assaults, usually through crude bombings and suicide attacks.