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NATO denies 3 killed in airstrike

KABUL — The NATO military coalition in Afghanistan on Friday denied a United Nations report that a coalition airstrike killed three children in eastern Afghanistan.

The United Nations Children’s Fund cited the reported airstrike in a statement this week condemning a steep rise in child casualties.

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The statement said an aerial attack by international forces killed three children in the eastern province of Kunar this month.

The US-led coalition said Friday that the report was ‘‘simply not true,’’ and it had no aircraft operating in Kunar at the time of the June 6 incident.

It said discussions with the provincial governor indicated that reports of a drone strike had been a misunderstanding.

UNICEF said Friday that it verifies all its figures and stands by the Kunar report.

The UN agency said in a report this week that the number of children killed and injured in Afghanistan’s war has risen sharply this year, calling the trend ‘‘unacceptable’’ and ‘‘very worrying.’’

At least 414 children were killed or injured in the first four months of this year, up 27 percent over the same period the previous year, UNICEF said.

Of those, 121 children were killed and 293 were injured through April 30, it said.

Roadside bombs and suicide attacks accounted for the largest number of casualties — 37 percent — and the UN has criticized the Taliban’s use of indiscriminate weapons triggered by victims’ stepping on or driving over a pressure plate as a possible war crime.

Violence is increasing overall in Afghanistan as the Taliban and other militants press an offensive against government targets as international troops hand over security to Afghans. The international coalition is set to end its military mission by the end of 2014.

The escalating attacks have caused civilian casualties to soar, including children.

Last week, a suicide attack near a school in the eastern province of Paktia killed nine children and wounded seven others, and a father and three children died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

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