Coalition Strike in Afghanistan Kills 9 Children
John Cushman – New York Times December 7, 2003
KABUL, Afghanistan, United States warplanes attacking a suspected member of the Taliban killed nine children in the southeastern province of Ghazni on Saturday, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Sunday morning. One man was also killed in the attack, they said.
In a statement issued early on Sunday from the headquarters of the American-led military forces at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, the military said ground forces searching the area after the attack found the bodies of the children as well as the body of the suspect.
"Coalition forces regret the loss of any innocent life," the statement said. It said the troops remaining in the area "will make every effort to assist the families of the innocent casualties and determine the cause of the civilian deaths."
The statement said a commission was being set up to investigate the incident. It did not describe the air attack in any detail.
Maj. Christopher E. West, an Army spokesman at Bagram, said the aircraft involved was an A-10 attack jet, a type that flies low and fires guns and rockets in support of infantry. A-10's are frequently in action over Afghanistan.
Haji Masud, an official in the governor's office in Ghazni, confirmed the attack and said it had been aimed at Mullah Wazir, a former member of the Taliban movement. "They bombed Mullah Wazir's house and civilians were also killed," he said in a telephone interview on Sunday morning. He gave no further details and said an official Afghan delegation had gone to the area to investigate.
A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai in Kabul said that when first reports arrived from the region, the American military had denied that the attack occurred. Mr. Karzai has frequently asked the United States military to take greater care with bombing raids on civilian areas and with they intelligence it receives, which has often proved erroneous. There have been hundreds of civilian casualties from bombing raids during the past two years. At least 48 people were killed in July 2002 when American planes fired on a village where a wedding party was in progress.
In another incident, eleven people from one family were killed when a bomb landed on their house near the Pakistani border in Paktika Province. The United States military quickly acknowledged the mistake, saying the attack was aimed at a group of militants whe were trying to escape across the border.
On Oct. 30. American planes bombed a village in the northern province of Nuristan, killing six members of one family, most of them women and children, and two religious students in the village mosque. The military has not yet confirmed that its planes were in the area that night.
In their statement, the United States military said it the targeted man had been involved in the killings of two contractors working on Afghanistan's main highway connecting the capital with the cities of Kandahar and Herat. There have been no reported killings of contractors. Several Afghan security policemen were killed in an attack on the road in September.
An officer at the main headquarters of Central Command in Tampa, which runs the military operations in Afghanistan as well as Iraq and elsewhere in the region, referred questions to the Bagram headquarters.
American and allied forces in Afghanistan "follow stringent rules of engagement to specifically avoid this type of incident while continuing to target terrorists," the statement said.
The aircraft opened fire on the suspect in what whas described as "an isolated rural site" south of the town of Ghazni, the statement said.
The attack came about 10:30 on Saturday morning. Ghazni is about 80 miles southeast of Kabul on the road to Kandahar, the former stronghold of the Taliban movement that governed Afghanistan before the United States and Afghan opposition forces overthrew it two years ago.
The military said the strike on Saturday was carried out "after developing extensive intelligence over an extended period of time" that determined the suspect's whereabouts.
Courtesy Josh Kirby
Last updated 08/09/2006