| GEO World|
| NATO says cannot verify Afghan civilian deaths|
| Updated at: 1258 PST, Tuesday, July 27, 2010|
KABUL: NATO said Tuesday its investigation into a rocket strike that the Afghan president says killed 52 civilians found no evidence that its forces were involved.
President Hamid Karzai said Monday that a rocket attack on a residential compound in the southern province of Helmand was carried out by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The attack by a helicopter gunship last Friday killed 52 people in Regey village, in Helmand's volatile Sangin district, he said.
NATO has consistently denied its forces were responsible for the incident.
"We do not know where the information they say they have is coming from," said ISAF public affairs officer Todd Breasseale.
A joint ISAF-Afghan government investigation had not revealed ISAF involvement in the deaths of civilians in Regey, he said.
He said the Afghan National Security Council appeared to have conducted a parallel investigation at the president's behest.
The NSC investigation found "a rocket launched by NATO/ISAF troops" hit a house in Sangin on Friday "leaving 52 civilians dead, including women and children," Karzai said.
Breasseale said the ISAF-Afghan investigation looked into an operation conducted by US Marines and the Afghan army "10 to 12 kilometres" (six to seven miles) from Regey.
"We are looking into who was responsible for (the rocket attack), that is part of our investigation," he said.
NATO has consistently denied responsibility for the attack, releasing a statement late Monday saying: "Any speculation at this point of an alleged civilian casualty in Regey village is completely unfounded."
The conflicting reports coincided with the leak of 92,000 Pentagon documents that showed, among much else, under-reporting of civilian casualties in the Afghan war.
The issue is sensitive in Afghanistan, where many people blame the presence of foreign forces for the violence of the nearly nine-year-old Taliban-led insurgency. Close to 150,000 US and NATO troops are deployed in Afghanistan.
The United Nations said this year that 2,412 civilians were killed in the war in 2009, making it the deadliest year for ordinary Afghans since the 2001 US-led invasion.