Human Rights Watch said that Nato-led troops were not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties and urged them to set up a programme to pay compensation to victims' families.

"While Nato forces try to minimise harm to civilians, they obviously are not doing enough," Sam Zarifi, the group's Asia research director, said in a statement released in New York on Friday.

"Nato's tactics are increasingly endangering the civilians they are supposed to be protecting and turning the local population against them".

Nato's force in Afghanistan said that about 70 people were killed in raids targeted at Taliban earlier this week but it was still not sure how many of them were civilians.
  
The International Security Assistance Force admitted in a statement that a "number of civilians were killed along with a large number of insurgents" in the October 24 air strike in Kandahar province.
 
Civilian casualties

The statement said, "Isaf believes that around 70 individuals were killed.
  

"While Nato forces try to minimise harm to civilians, they obviously are not doing enough".

Sam Zarifi, Human Rights Watch's Asia research director 

"We are satisfied that we identified and targeted a group of insurgents, but it is uncertain how many civilians were among the dead. In addition, it is unclear how many of the civilians were killed as a result of insurgent fire."

Afghan officials and local residents have said that between 60 and 85 civilians were killed in the late-night bombing raid.

Zarifi said, "Many Afghans looked forward to Nato's deployment because they thought the force would protect Afghan civilians and help with reconstruction.

"But Nato won't win the trust of Afghans by showing disregard for civilian lives and property."

Humanitarian law

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday that Afghan civilians are getting caught in the middle of fighting and urged all parties in the conflict to spare civilians from attacks and respect international humanitarian law.

"Aerial bombardment and ground offensives in populated rural areas, together with recent suicide attacks and roadside bombs in urban areas, have significantly increased the number of innocent civilians killed, injured or displaced," the Red Cross said.

The 32,000-strong Nato-led force took command of security operations for the whole of Afghanistan last month.

The military alliance has been battling resurgent Taliban fighters in the country's south and east in the worst upsurge of violence since the US-led invasion in 2001.

Nato has accused the Taliban of using civilian areas for cover and has said it regrets civilian casualties.