Officials' Reports of
Eleven Afghan Civilian Deaths
January 20, 2004
KABUL (Reuters) - The U.S. military Tuesday rejected reports from Afghan provincial officials that it had killed 11 civilians, including four children, in a weekend air strike in central Afghanistan.
A military spokesman said the strike during an operation in Uruzgan province's Charcheno district Sunday killed "five armed men" who left a compound where "mid-level leadership" of the ousted Taliban regime had gathered. Reacting to reports from senior government officials in the province, who said U.S. planes had killed 11 civilians, including four children and three women, U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty told a news conference:
"Typically, the Taliban are attempting to spread disinformation, propaganda, in order to discredit the coalition.
"Our aircraft did not engage non-combatants. We clearly identified and engaged five armed adult males. We have reviewed the incident, but, as I stated above, there is no indication that any civilians were involved."
Uruzgan's governor, Jan Mohammad Khan and Charcheno's district chief Abdur Rahman both said Monday that 11 civilians were killed in the tiny village.
Uruzgan was a stronghold of the Taliban before its overthrow by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 and was the scene of a notorious incident in July 2002 when a U.S. helicopter gunship fired on a wedding party.
The Afghan government said 48 people were killed and 117 hurt in that incident. The U.S. military eventually said 34 died and 50 were wounded -- most women and children -- but said the aircraft came under fire.
Only last month, 15 children were among 18 civilians killed in bungled U.S. air strikes targeting militant commanders in the southern provinces of Paktia and Ghazni.