USA kills more children... 

USA kills more children...

Huzzah for the liberators!


U.S. Strike Mistakenly Kills 9 Children

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Dec. 7) - A U.S. warplane in pursuit of a "known terrorist'' attacked a village in eastern Afghanistan, mistakenly killing nine children, officials said Sunday.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he was "deeply saddened'' by the "tragic loss of innocent life,'' and had spoken to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the attack. He said it had targeted a former Taliban commander named Mullah Wazir.

Also Sunday, officials said two Turkish engineers and an Afghan had been kidnapped in Afghanistan, bringing to five the number of workers who have been abducted in Afghanistan in the last three days.

Army Maj. Christopher E. West told The Associated Press that the suspect was killed in the attack, which saw an American A-10 aircraft strike an area south of the city of Ghazni, 100 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul.

"At the time we initiated the attack, we did not know there were children nearby,'' West said from the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram, north of Kabul.

Khalilzad said Wazir "had bragged of his personal involvement in attacks on innocent Afghan citizens.''

But Jawaid Khan, the Ghazni governor's secretary, said Wazir was not among the dead. He also said eight children and two men were killed.

"The Americans wanted to bomb Mullah Wazir, but they bombed a different house,'' Khan told the AP. "The people there are very afraid. They have no idea why the Americans bombed their village.''

The 11,500 U.S.-led troops hunting Taliban and al-Qaida remnants in south and east Afghanistan often are supported by air power, and there have been a string of ``friendly fire'' incidents.

The worst occurred in July 2002, when Afghan officials said 48 civilians at a wedding party were killed and 117 wounded by a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship in Uruzgan province, which borders Ghazni province.

On April 9, a U.S. warplane mistakenly bombed a home, killing 11 civilians. Another air strike in Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan on Oct. 31 reportedly killed at least eight civilians in a house.

West called Saturday's target a "known terrorist.'' Khalilzad said he was involved in attacks on road workers and aid groups.

Coalition forces "will make every effort to assist the families of these innocent casualties and determine the cause of the civilian deaths,'' West said. "We regret the loss of any innocent life and we follow stringent rules of engagement to specifically avoid this type of incident while continuing to target terrorists who threaten the future of Afghanistan.''

West said U.S. troops collected "extensive intelligence over an extended period of time'' and located the suspect targeted in Saturday's strike at an "isolated, rural site.''

"Following the attack, ground coalition forces searching the area found the bodies of both the intended target and those of nine children nearby,'' he said.

During the Taliban regime, Wazir was a local district commander and was not known as a major player in the Taliban resistance.

Military investigators went to the scene to try to determine if U.S. forces were at fault, West said. Afghan officials said the site was sealed off by coalition forces on Sunday.

Local Afghan official Ahmad Zia Masood said that Wazir had fired at U.S. helicopters on Friday. Masood said it was unclear if the 10 victims were Wazir and his family or their neighbors.

Another official, deputy governor Khial Mohammed Husseini, said Wazir's immediate family lived in Pakistan.

The Afghan officials said the attack took place in the village of Atla, just north of where the two Indian road engineers were kidnapped.

The Turkish engineers and an Afghan colleague were abducted Friday when unidentified men burst into the office of a Turkish construction company southeast of the capital, said Nick Downie of the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, which protects aid workers.

The Ministry of the Interior and the Turkish Embassy were both investigating the abduction.

On Saturday, suspected Taliban kidnapped two Indian engineers working on the road. Taliban recently freed a Turkish engineer from the project after a month in captivity.

The engineers were working for an Indian contractor helping resurface part of the Kabul-Kandahar road, a reconstruction project mainly funded by the United States. The road was to be officially opened later this month.

Taliban attacks have plagued the flagship project. Four construction workers were killed in August, and de-mining operations along the road were suspended last month after a carjacking. The Turkish engineer was abducted along the road Oct. 30, and released after one month.

In other violence Saturday, a bomb in Kandahar, the main southern stronghold of the Taliban, ripped through a bustling bazaar, wounding 20 Afghans. Taliban fighters claimed responsibility, saying the blast was aimed at American soldiers but went off late.

The bomb, apparently attached to a parked motorcycle or bicycle, exploded in front of a hotel at about 12:30 p.m. in the city's main commercial district. The wounded included three children, state TV reported.

The Taliban, ousted from power in a U.S.-led offensive in late 2001, have stepped up attacks in recent months, targeting foreign aid workers and perceived allies of the coalition.

International aid agencies have reduced operations in Afghanistan's south and east due to escalating violence, including the Nov. 16 drive-by shooting death of a French U.S. aid worker.

12/07/03 06:32 EST


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