same event, different take.
Botched US bombing kills 40 at Afghan wedding party
Tom Coghlan in Kabul
Afghan villagers search destroyed a house in the village of Wocha Bakhta in Kandahar Province (Hamed Zalmy/AFP/Getty Images)
US troops fighting off a Taleban ambush bombed a wedding party in southern Afghanistan and killed about 40 civilians, mainly women and children, local people and government officials said yesterday.
American officials confirmed last night that an incident was under investigation by the US military and the Afghan Government. Colonel Greg Julian, a US army spokesman, told The Times: “We are taking this very seriously. We are extremely sorry if there have been civilian casualties sustained during this operation. It is the worst possible outcome if civilians are harmed as a result of our trying to defend them.”
He confirmed that US forces had been operating in the Shah Wali Kot area when the alleged incident took place on Monday afternoon, and that airstrikes were called in. Injured people arrived in Kandahar overnight on Monday and hospital officials said that 16 men and dozens of women had been admitted.
Reports from Kandahar suggested that there was a high proportion of women casualties because the wedding was segregated, in accordance with local custom, and airstrikes hit the women’s half. A local reporter who reached the scene said that ten women, four men and 23 children were killed. Some estimates of the dead from local people were much higher.
Civilians who accompanied the wounded to Kandahar city said that US forces had been moving through the mountainous area when their convoy was ambushed. During several hours of fighting American troops and aircraft attacked a mudwalled castle, a common structure in rural Kandahar, where the wedding was taking place. “Taleban attacked the troops. Then the troops bombed our village and killed scores of people. There are still people under rubble,” said Shah Mohammad, who was accompanying the injured to hospital.
Another man in the hospital, Abdul Zahir, 24, said he was the brother of the bride. She was seriously wounded in the attack. He said that the bombing lasted for five hours after the battle broke out. Mr Zahir sat next to a bed containing his three cousins, Noor Ahmad, Hazrat Sadiq and Mohammad Rafiq, aged between 3 and 5, all of whom were wounded in the attack. He said that eight family members died and 14 were injured.
“We are aware that civilians have died in airstrikes conducted by foreign forces in Shah Wali Kot, but at this time we don’t know how many,” Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of the provincial council in Kandahar and brother of the Afghan President, said.
At a press conference to honour the election of Barack Obama yesterday, President Karzai made a pointed call to curtail the use of bombing by Western forces. “We cannot win the fight against terrorism with airstrikes,” he said. “This is my first demand of the new President of the United States: to put an end to civilian casualties.”
The Taleban issued a press release saying that one of their fighters was killed and two wounded in the fighting. The group claimed to have killed 13 American soldiers and destroyed an armoured vehicle.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/w ... 092346.ece
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