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U.S. air raid kills 11, Afghan officials say

Published January 20, 2004

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — A U.S. air raid in southern
Afghanistan killed 11 villagers, including four children, Afghan
officials said yesterday. The U.S. military said it killed five
militants in the weekend raid in the insurgency-plagued Uruzgan
province.

Sunday’s incident came as American commanders and Afghan
officials hunt for Taliban and al-Qaida suspects and try to improve
security in the lawless south and east ahead of planned summer
elections.

Their task was highlighted anew by a bold daylight raid on a
remote military base that injured three American soldiers.

Abdul Rahman, chief of Char Chino district in Uruzgan, said the
attack occurred around 9 p.m. Sunday in Saghatho, a village where
he said U.S. forces hunting for insurgents had carried out searches
and made several arrests.

He said the victims were outside a house and a helicopter was
hovering nearby when “a big plane came and dropped
bombs.”

“They were simple villagers, they were not Taliban. I
don’t know why the U.S. bombed this home,” he told an
Associated Press reporter by telephone in the southern city of
Kandahar.

The provincial governor, Jan Mohammed Khan, confirmed
Rahman’s account that four men, four children and three women
were killed in the American attack.

He said U.S. authorities told him they found ammunition in a
search of the village. During the search, “The people were
afraid, they started running,” Khan said.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a U.S. military spokesman, said a
warplane killed five armed militants north of Deh Rawood, a town in
Uruzgan where the American military has a base, but had no more
information on the exact location or time, and no word of any
civilian casualties. Saghatho is 25 miles north of Deh Rawood.

He said an AC-130 gunship attacked the men when they left a
house frequented by insurgents. “They were running away from
a known bad-guy site,” Hilferty told AP, insisting military
planners “carefully weigh the use of deadly force.”

Two botched raids last month sparked outrage and drew U.N.
warnings that civilian casualties could drive Afghans into the arms
of militants who oppose U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai.

On Dec. 5, six children died when a wall fell on them during a
nighttime assault on a complex in eastern Paktia province where the
U.S. military seized hidden weapons caches.

The next day, nine children were found dead in a field after an
attack by an A-10 ground attack on a village in neighboring Ghazni
province.

Both attacks were aimed at wanted militants, but neither target
was killed or detained.

American commanders had vowed to review their procedures after
the raids.

The attack also brought to more than 50 the death toll in
violence since the ratification of a post-Taliban constitution Jan.
4, most of them civilians.

Three U.S. soldiers were wounded Sunday when about 15 insurgents
opened fire on the Deh Rawood base with rocket-propelled grenades
and machine-guns.

One attacker was killed when American soldiers returned
fire.

The soldiers, all injured by shrapnel, were in stable condition
at the main U.S. military base at Bagram, north of Kabul.

Afghanistan’s new constitution is supposed to help rebuild
a state destroyed by nearly a quarter-century of war and bolster
Karzai, the only declared candidate for the summer election.

But the United Nations has warned it can only organize the vote
if the security situation improves quickly.

Hilferty said Afghan authorities and the 11,000-strong U.S.-led
coalition force, which is hurrying to open a string of new bases in
troubled areas, had control of the country, but couldn’t
prevent insurgents from mounting “localized”
attacks.