KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Afghan military and the U.S. both conducted airstrikes near the northern city of Kunduz during an operation that ended Thursday morning in which more than 20 civilians may have been killed, officials said.
Afghan forces provided initial air support for a joint raid with NATO troops that targeted top Taliban commanders, but the Afghans requested foreign airstrikes after they were surrounded by enemy fire, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri said Friday.
"The U.S. did conduct air-to-ground engagements in Kunduz in the early morning hours of Nov. 3 in defense of friendly forces," said Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Two American service members were killed in heavy fighting and four others were wounded. The Pentagon on Friday identified the dead as Capt. Andrew D. Byers, 30, of Rolesville, N.C., and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan A. Gloyer, 34, of Greenville, Pa. They were both assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group based at Fort Carson, Colo.
Three Afghan special forces troops also died and seven were injured, Waziri said.
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said in Washington on Thursday that the incident was under investigation.
"We obviously take any reports or allegations of civilian casualties very seriously. This was, however, an Afghan operation," he said. "We'll work with our Afghan partners in order to investigate this incident thoroughly."
Kunduz provincial police spokesman Hijratullah Akbari said that as of Friday morning, there were 24 civilian fatalities, including women and children. As many as 10 others were injured during the operation, which occurred in the village of Buze Kandahari, a Taliban-dominated area.
"This is not acceptable, we want justice," Haji Mira Jan, a village resident, told Stars and Stripes. "No one has the right to target innocent people and brutally kill them."
Many in the area have been outraged by the killings and appeared to blame them on the United States. Videos posted online of a demonstration in Kunduz city against the civilian killings show people chanting, "death to America."
NATO would not provide the identities of the American casualties until their next of kin were notified. Akbari of the Kunduz police said that during the fighting on Wednesday, enemy fighters had taken shelter in the homes of Buze Kandahari residents, using them as human shields.