Monday, August 27, 2007

Residents report 60 civilians dead or injured; US labels it Taliban propaganda

Residents of the Helmand town of Kobar in Musa Qala district have told several journalists that US air strikes in their village this past Saturday resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. From the Associated Press:

But Haji Abdul Manan Agha, the tribal leader from the area, said two homes were bombed by coalition forces late Saturday.

"In one home, 18 people attending an engagement party were killed, including women, children and men," he said.

In the second house, eight Taliban were killed, he said. More than 30 people were wounded in both strikes, Agha said.

The AP report also cites a taxi driver who drove wounded people to a nearby hospital and who also says that 18 civilians were killed. Reuters cites a hospital official in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah as confirming at least 6 injured people, including two women and a child, resulting from the incident. Radio free Europe, for its part, quotes a local who says: "Last night's bombings targeted two places. The first bombing, which hit a wedding party, killed 30 civilians and injured between 25 and 28 others. "

The US and NATO deny any wrongdoing. A US military statement says (via the Reuters report above):
"No bombs were dropped during the engagement," it said. "Twelve enemy fighters were killed in the engagement ... There were no Afghan civilian injuries reported."
Reuters also quotes the statement as saying that ground troops requiring close air support "called in aircraft to destroy additional enemy fighters". Yet the US Air Force, in their daily air power summary says that A-10 Thunderbolts "conducted successful shows of force over areas in Musa Qal' eh. " So the Air Force says that the A-10's didn't even fire, which may not jibe with the statement attributed to the US military above.

Further discrepancies surface in a New York Times report by David Rohde, who cites "American military officials" who told him that "NATO responded with airstrikes", in Rohde's words. He quotes a US military spokesperson who says “We didn’t target any buildings or any structures" - a statement which appears to offer a tacit admission that an air strike did occur.

(N.B. While the CBC ran the AP report cited above, a comprehensive electronic search of Canadian newspapers finds that not one major daily in the country reported on the incident.)

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