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The shooting sparked angry protests with hundreds of villagers shouting “Death to America” and “Long live the Taliban” as they carried the bodies to the provincial governor’s home.

“What I confirm now is six local security forces were killed by NATO’s helicopters. NATO told us the militiamen fired first. We don’t know whom to blame,” Khan said.

The militiamen, part of a community security force, were not affiliated with the Afghan government.

A NATO statement said five people with weapons moving from a “previously identified enemy position” were killed by NATO helicopters. The alliance said it was aware of civilian casualty allegations, and a team was being sent to investigate.

NATO helicopter strikes on Pakistani territory killed two Pakistani border guards on Sept. 30. In apparent retaliation, Pakistan shut a key border crossing used by NATO and the U.S to bring supplies to forces in Afghanistan.

In other violence, an insurgent attack killed a NATO service member and two others died in separate roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan on Friday, the alliance said, without giving their nationalities or precise locations. The deaths brought to 19 the number of NATO forces killed this month.

Fighting has surged in southern Afghanistan since NATO and Afghan forces launched operation Dragon Strike last month in areas around Kandahar city — 260 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul — to flush out militants and destroy their strongholds. Southern Afghanistan is the birthplace of the Taliban, and the hard-line militia’s presence is strong there.

Thursday was the ninth anniversary of the American invasion of Afghanistan. At least 2,007 NATO service members have died fighting since Oct. 7, 2001, according to an AP count.

NATO also said Friday a senior Taliban leader accused of commanding an “assassination cell” in Kandhar city was captured Thursday. The unidentified insurgent may be linked to the killing of Kandahar’s deputy mayor, Noor Ahman, on Monday, as well as an Afghan military officer, the alliance said in a statement.

Another Taliban commander was detained the same day in Kandahar province’s Zhari district after a gunbattle left one insurgent dead, NATO said.

Four militants were killed and one captured by an Afghan-NATO force in eastern Wardak province’s Chaki Wardak district Thursday, NATO said. The force took small-arms fire from Taliban fighters in several compounds, and retaliatory fire killed the four.

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Robert Kennedy contributed to this report.