Wednesday, November 5, 2008

US kills 40 civilians in another wedding bombing

Twenty-three children are among at least 40 civilians killed in an airstrike in Kandahar province. Once again, the victims are said to be wedding-goers.

While Canadian troops do operate in the district of Shah Wali Kot* where the incident took place, they were not involved in the November 3 operation, according to a spokesperson.

Karzai Says Coalition Air Strike Kills 40 In Afghanistan

KABUL, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said an air strike by coalition forces earlier this week killed some 40 civilians and wounded about 28 in Kandahar Province...

The air strike took place on November 3 in the Shah Wali Kot district in the southern Taliban heartland of Kandahar Province.

"By bombing Afghanistan, the war against terrorism cannot be won," Karzai told a news conference.

Several villagers who had taken a group of wounded to the hospital in Kandahar city said the air strike hit a wedding party.

The U.S. military said it was checking reports...

Reuters television pictures from the village of Wech Baghtu showed a burnt car and half a dozen men shovelling white, dusty rubble from an area surrounded by a wall. The villagers showed Reuters white material soaked in blood.

The bride was among the wounded brought to the main hospital in Kandahar city, her relative Juma Khan said. The air strike happened during a clash between foreign troops and Taliban insurgents in Shah Wali Kot district, Khan said. (link)
Bill Graveland of the Canadian Press has more:
The governor of Kandahar province, Rahmatullah Raufi, told a news conference Wednesday that the Taliban attacked an American convoy in an area where a wedding party was also underway.

The Americans responded by calling in an air strike, he said.

"It was a mistake - they hit the wedding party and thought it was the Taliban," Raufi said.

"The plane hit the mountain and the village, too, which resulted in heavy civilian casualties."

The governor declined to venture a guess on the number of dead and accounts from others varied widely.

One witnesses, Juma Khan, said 37 people, including 23 children and 10 women, were killed in his compound. A senior official with Kandahar's provincial government put the death toll as high as 90...

Canadian ground troops also operate in the Shah Wali Kot region but were not involved in Monday's hostilities.

"I can confirm that no Canadian troops were involved in the incidents in Shah Wali Kot," said Canadian Forces spokesman Maj. Jay Janzen in Kandahar.

"Canadian troops are responsible for Kandahar province. We do occasionally go into the Shah Wali Kot area but do not proceed as far north as where the incident occurred." (link)
The Guardian cites a local who says he saw about fifty bodies.
* Here's how Shah Wali Kot was described in the early weeks of Canada's operation in Kandahar (April 2006):

So far, Canadian commanders say they have made progress in the district of Shah Wali Kot. Canada concentrated its battle group there for most of February and March, scouting the land, surveying the economic needs in villages, and searching for Taliban guerrillas and weapons caches.

"It's a traditional transit area up there for the Taliban," Lt.-Col. Ian Hope, commander of the Canadian battle group, told reporters before the start of the latest mission.

"Up to 12 months ago, (the Taliban) would transit through there in the day with impunity, taking what they wanted from the villages and acquiring conscripts. We are no longer seeing that transit presence in Shah Wali Kot. (link)

Later, the Canadians mostly gave up on Shah Wali Kot, concentrating instead on the more populated districts of Zhari and Panjwai.

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