Casualties 

According to Rahmatullah Hanafi, the head of the emergency ward at the hospital, the wounded belonged to the family of Ghulam Mohammad, a local resident, and included three men, two women and a child.

He said that all had shrapnel wounds and one of the women was in a critical condition.

Mohammad said: "So far between 60 killed and wounded people have been recovered and there are people who are trapped under collapsed houses."

Hajji Saeed Mohammad, a family member said: "It was a quiet evening and the bombardment began all of a sudden. Cattle have also been killed."

"We can't do anything - can't stay in our villages and can't go anywhere ... it is best for us to be killed all at once than being killed every day."

A US military spokeswoman has said that US-led coalition troops were conducting an operation in the Musa Qala area.

The spokeswoman said: "I understand that there were operations in that area, I don't know if the operations are complete or ongoing."

The British military, which has the largest force in Helmand, said there were no air raids launched in the area.

A British military spokesman said: "There was not an airstrike in that area last night. Coalition forces were engaged by the Taliban and there was a contact and a firefight, but no close air support dropped anything."

Growing problems

According to aid groups and Afghan officials, more than 350 civilians have been killed this year in operations by Western troops in Afghanistan.

"We can't do any thing, can't stay in our villages and can't go anywhere ... it is best for us to be killed all at once than being killed every day."

Hajji Saeed Mohammad, resident, Helmand Province 
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has repeatedly urged Western troops to co-ordinate operations with Afghan forces and avoid civilian casualties.

Karzai's government is under growing criticism and has been accused of corruption, perceived lack of development and reconstruction, rising insecurity and a rise in the illegal drugs trade.

Meanwhile, Pakistan military officials have denied allowing US forces to launch attacks across Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.
 
The US-led coalition earlier said in a statement that US and Afghan troops had killed more than a dozen fighters in eastern Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan.

According to the statement, the Pakistani military had given Afghan forces permission on Sunday to fire over the border on sites the fighters were using to launch mortars around Shkin, a small town close to the border.

The statement said: "Coalition counter-fire batteries destroyed the six confirmed insurgent firing sites, three on each side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border."

"The Pakistani military gave permission for the Afghan National Security Forces to fire on the targets located within Pakistan."
 
Attack denied

However, Major-General Waheed Arshad, a Pakistan military spokesman, denied the claim.

Arshad said: "This is a wrong statement, there was no attack, no firing from our side of the border. And there was no permission asked by them or given by us."

"This statement is wrong and untrue."

Pakistani officials have previously said that they would not allow any foreign troops to hunt fighters on its soil.

Earlier this month, about 700 Afghan and Pakistani tribal chiefs, elders and politicians gathered in Kabul to discuss how to prevent fighters hiding out in rugged terrain on both sides of the border.

During the gathering - called a jirga – an agreement was made to drive rebels out of the border areas.