AUSTRALIAN special forces soldiers have killed five children in an attack on a compound in Afghanistan.
The tragedy has triggered a strong warning from the Afghan Government that civilian deaths are playing into the hands of the Taliban.
Afghan ambassador Amanullah Jayhoon said his Government was very concerned that the Australians had not co-ordinated the operation with Afghan security forces.
The ambassador said 1000 civilians were killed by Coalition forces last year and such killings were eroding support for the Afghan Government.
“There is no doubt that the Australian troops are doing their best in a very difficult and dangerous place,” the ambassador told the Nine Network.
The Australian Defence Force chief of joint operations, Lieutenant-General Mark Evans, said the soldiers were involved in an operation in Oruzgan province, southern Afghanistan, in darkness early on Thursday.
“During the conduct of this operation there was an exchange of fire between our forces and the Taliban,” General Evans said.
“Tragically, a number of people were killed and wounded during this incident.”
A suspected insurgent was killed along with five Afghan children. No Australians were hurt.
Australians operated under strict rules of engagement and set out to avoid civilian casualties at all times, General Evans said.
“The Taliban operate within the civilian community. We do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties and deeply regret the loss of innocent life.”
The ADF has launched an investigation, which would take several weeks to complete, he said.