The bombing started after U.S. special forces investigating intelligence of hostile activity in the region came under fire from ridges and caves, according to U.S. Army spokesman Colonel Roger King.
An aide to the governor of the Helmand Province, Haji Mohammad Wali, told Reuters that an air attack Wednesday night killed an unknown number of civilians.
“I know there have been casualties last night, but I do not know how many,” Wali told Reuters by telephone from the Helmand capital, Lashkar Gah.
Wali said the new casualties do not include the at least 17 civilians, including women and children, reported killed earlier in the week. Reports from villagers in the area said the victims may have been members of one family.
From the coalition headquarters at Bagram Air Base, King said he was unaware of any civilian casualties resulting from the coalition push into the area, dubbed “Operation Eagle Fury.”
“Battle damage assessment conducted in support of Operation Eagle Fury has not indicated any noncombatant casualties to date,” King said.
The munitions used included a 2,000-pound “smart bomb” and 10 105-millimeter cannon rounds from a AC-130 gunship, according to King.
He said the raids did kill and wound several suspected militants, but that the death toll was “something less” than the 30 Taliban holdovers believed to be hiding out in the caves in the Baghran Valley.
King said coalition forces detained 15 people for questioning in the region.
Some 13,000 U.S.-led coalition troops remain stationed in Afghanistan hunting down Taliban rebels threatening the new Afghan government and remains of the al-Qaida network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., according to Reuters.