File photo

Kandahar -

Two children were shot dead by Australian soldiers in southern Afghanistan as they were battling with Taliban insurgents, police said on Saturday.

“The children were tending cattle in Charchino district on Thursday when they were mistakenly shot by the Australian soldiers, who were responding to the attack by the Taliban militants,” said Farid Ayel, police spokesman for Uruzgan province.

He said an investigation team has been sent to find out more about the incident.

The NATO-led military confirmed the incident, saying they were responsible for the “unintended death of two young Afghan civilians during an operation” on February 28.

The boys were killed when the coalition forces fired at what they thought were insurgent forces, a NATO statement said.

“I offer my personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed,” said General Joseph Dunford, the commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.

A joint investigation team of Afghan and NATO forces has visited the location and met with the local leaders, NATO said in the statement.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO troops have been a particularly heated issue between Afghanistan and the coalition. It has often fueled public rage and garnered direct criticisms from President Hamid Karzai.

Last month, a NATO airstrike killed at least 10 Afghan civilians, which prompted Karzai to ban Afghan forces from seeking air support from the foreign troops in civilian areas. - Sapa-dpa