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Reuters / Nikola Solic

NATO and Afghan officials are disputing an airstrike in E. Afghanistan that killed at least seven people. An Afghan official said all the dead were civilians, including a 12-year-old child, but NATO said the “precision” strike only killed militants.

Abdul Wali Sahi, deputy governor of Paktia province, told Reuters that villagers had found seven bodies in the Udkey area of Gardez city and brought them to the provincial capital following the airstrike. Locals say they were gathering firewood on a mountain side when NATO forces fired upon them on Sunday. An eighth person was reportedly wounded.

“They had shovels in their hands, and coalition forces maybe thought they were insurgents,” Sahi told the agency. He added that a 12-year-old boy was among the dead.

“From the evidence it seems that all seven who have been killed in the airstrike of the coalition forces are civilians, but this needs to be investigated more to find out why and how this incident has happened,” Sahi later told AP.

But Lt. Col. David Olson, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition, disputes the claim. Olson said that a precision airstrike had taken place in the area after NATO forces came under fire.

“The result of this strike was eight enemy killed,”he said.

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U.S. troops arrive at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul October 13, 2014 (Reuters / Omar Sobhani)

On Monday, protesters brought the seven corpses to the governor’s office in eastern Paktia province, claiming they were the ones killed in the airstrike, AP reports.

Protested shouted slogans against ISAF forces and called on the Afghan government to prevent such attacks from being carried out in the area.

Paktia was once one of the most chaotic provinces in the country, though the security situation has improved in recent years.

Bordering the Pakistani-ruled tribal areas of North Waziristan, Bannu and the Kurram Tribal Agency, parts of Paktia are used by militants from the Haqqani network and other Taliban fighters as a safe haven.

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