KABUL, Afghanistan -- A US air raid in Afghanistan's rugged eastern mountains killed 17 civilians, including women and children, an Afghan official said yesterday. The US military confirmed civilian deaths but said the numbers were unclear.
An initial raid on Friday destroyed a house, and as villagers gathered to look at the damage, a US warplane dropped a second bomb on the target, said Kunar's provincial governor, Asadullah Wafa.
The raid was carried out in the province where a US transport helicopter was downed last week in the deadliest single blow to US forces since they ousted the Taliban in 2001.
Rebel attacks across the country have left about 700 people dead and have threatened to sabotage three years of progress toward peace. Afghan officials insist that the violence will not disrupt landmark legislative elections scheduled for September.
The US military said the attack had been carried out ''with precision-guided munitions that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of enemy terrorists and noncombatants."
''The targeted compound was a known operating base for terrorist attacks in Kunar province as well as a base for a medium-level terrorist leader," it said. ''Battle damage assessment is currently ongoing."
The statement added that US forces ''regret the loss of innocent lives and follow stringent rules of engagement specifically to ensure that noncombatants are safeguarded. However, when enemy forces move their families into the locations where they conduct terrorist operations, they put these innocent civilians at risk."
Wafa said it was unclear who had been killed in the initial attack in the tiny village of Chechal. ''Maybe some militants were killed, but I don't know," he said. ''The 17 people were killed in the second bombing."
Also yesterday, the fate of missing members of a team of four Navy SEALs remained uncertain.
Wafa said a second missing service member had been located in his province, wounded and sheltering with an Afghan family. His information came from Afghan intelligence sources, he said.
But a senior US Defense Department official in Washington said a second Navy SEAL had not been found. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of rescue operations.
A US military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara, declined to comment on the governor's comments, except to say: ''We hold every hope for those who are still missing."
The serviceman rescued on Saturday had taken shelter in an Afghan village elder's home in the province before US forces were notified of his location and picked him up, Wafa said.
The team was reported missing last Tuesday in Kunar. A rescue effort that day ended in tragedy when the transport helicopter seeking to extract the team was shot down, killing 16 troops aboard.
The BBC, quoting senior US military sources, reported that two missing service members were dead and that the whereabouts of the fourth remained unclear.
A purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, said last week that militants had captured one team member. He said the ''high-ranking American" was caught in the area where the helicopter went down.
Hakimi, who also said insurgents had shot down the helicopter, often calls news organizations to take responsibility for attacks, and the information frequently proves exaggerated or untrue. His exact tie to the Taliban leadership is unclear.
US officials said they had no evidence indicating that any service members had been taken into captivity.
The Navy SEAL rescued from Kunar province was being evaluated yesterday, officials said. He was in stable condition and was receiving medical treatment at the main US base at Bagram.