Video – US strike in Afghanistan kills dozens


DEADLY ASSAULT: A boy carries mud to be placed over the grave of one of his family members after airstrikes in Farah province, western Afghanistan, on Wednesday. (Reuters)

HERAT: Afghan villagers yesterday mourned relatives buried in mass graves after US-led airstrikes that the Red Cross said killed dozens and local officials said may have killed 100 civilians.

“During the aerial bombardment and ground operations, more than 100 people have died,” western Afghanistan police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi told AFP yesterday, basing his information on reports from police, the Red Cross and locals.

“Twenty-five to 30 of them are Taleban, including from Chechnya and Pakistan, and the rest are civilians including children, women and elderly people,” he said.

Villagers who survived the bombing of houses packed with terrified civilians told Reuters by telephone dozens of members of one extended family alone had died. They wept as they spoke of orphaned children and burying loved ones’ fragmented remains.

“My son and my daughter in-law have been killed and left me with a 13-month-old baby,” said Gul Bibi from Geraani village.

“Their remains were buried in a mass grave with others, and I didn’t even have a chance to see my son’s face for the last time because his body was blown apart,” she sobbed.

Rohul Amin, governor of Farah province, where the bombing took place late on Monday and fighting raged into Tuesday, said he feared 100 civilians had been killed. Provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Watandar said the death toll could be even higher.

If confirmed, those even higher figures could make the incident the single deadliest for Afghan civilians since the campaign to topple the Taleban in 2001.Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the civilian deaths “unjustifiable and unacceptable.” He sent a joint Afghan-US delegation to investigate.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration “deeply, deeply” regretted the loss of innocent lives as a result of the US bombing and would undertake a full review of the incident.

The bombings that lasted around an hour killed 50 members of Bibi’s neighbor Sayed Azam’s extended family, Azam said.“There were Taleban in the area and fierce fighting took place during the day but it ended when it was dark. People thought the fighting was over when suddenly bombings began,” he told Reuters.

Jessica Barry, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the Geneva-based group had sent a team, which reached the scene of the airstrikes.“There were women and there were children who were killed. It seemed they were trying to shelter in houses when they were hit,” she said. The team saw houses destroyed and dozens of bodies, providing the first international confirmation of the incident.

Among the dead was a first-aid volunteer for Afghanistan’s Red Crescent, killed along with 13 members of his family, Barry said. The Red Cross could not determine whether fighters were among the dead, she added.

US forces in Afghanistan acknowledge they were involved in fighting and airstrikes in the province’s Bala Boluk district, which began on Monday and continued into Tuesday after Taleban militants seized a village and clashed with Afghan troops. Survivors said they were frustrated that Afghan and foreign teams that visited the village had not offered any help.

“They just photographed us and that was it,” said 60-year-old Haji Mohammad Shah, who lost nine family members including his wife, daughter and grandchildren.

Watandar, the provincial police chief, said Taleban militants had herded villagers into houses in Geraani and Ganj Abad that were then struck by US-led coalition warplanes.“The fighting was going on in another village, but the Taleban escaped to these two villages, where they used people as human shields. The airstrikes destroyed 17 houses,” he said, adding the toll was imprecise.

Villagers trucked about 30 dead bodies to the provincial capital Farah City, said Gov. Amin.Taleban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi confirmed there had been fighting and said all casualties from airstrikes were civilians.

“The government and foreign troops must compensate the affected people, we don’t want apologies any more,” he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

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