One of the two "militant leaders" targeted in the attack was involved in improvised bomb attacks on international troops while the other was facilitating "foreign fighter operations", according to the statement.

 

The US-led forces did not give a specific number of fighters killed but Ghamai Khan Mohammadyar, a spokesman for the provincial government, put the number at 17.

 

'Tragic' incident

 

Rumi Nielson, a US military spokesman, said the four civilians who died were all in the same buildings in which the fighters were firing from.

 
Nielson called the attack "tragic".
 
Scores of civilians have died in operations against the Taliban by international and Afghan troops.
 
The casualties have caused widespread outrage in the country and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has repeatedly called on US and other western troops to avoid civilian deaths during operations.
 
More than 70,000 international troops operating under Nato and the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.