Deadly U.S. Airstrikes In Afghanistan Being Probed

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The Afghan government, the Red Cross and the U.S. military are investigating the latest incident of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. airstrikes. The Red Cross reports dozens were killed earlier this week in southern Farah province.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: I'm Robert Siegel. And we begin this hour in Afghanistan. A joint team of US military and Afghan police officers has gone to a remote area in the western part of the country to investigate. There are reports that earlier this week American airstrikes killed dozens of innocent people. It is the largest case of alleged civilian deaths blamed on American forces since last August. That's when as many as 90 people were killed in a village just two hours north from where the latest deaths occurred. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Kabul.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: The incident in Farah started out as many do in far-flung provinces here: Afghan security forces under attack by insurgents call for US-led coalition help. This time, it was police battling Taliban fighters who had just beheaded three men in a district not far from Afghanistan's border with Iran. US marines and special forces arrived and called for airstrikes. But villagers in Bala Baluk district say the bombs struck the wrong targets. They claim the airstrikes leveled two compounds to which women, children and elderly people had fled to avoid the battle.

A handful of survivors turned up in the provincial capital for treatment at an American military clinic. Eleven more went to the main Afghan hospital. More villagers showed with as many as 30 bodies in tow to show local officials. An international Red Cross team confirmed that some women and children were among the dozens of bodies villagers were burying earlier Tuesday. Yet this incident, like so many others here, is hardly clear cut. Insecurity and a remote location make it difficult for any independent follow-up. US General David McKiernan, who head Western forces here, says the military has reached distinctly different conclusions about what caused the deaths. He did not elaborate.

Some tribal officials reached by phone acknowledged that their district is rife with Taliban. They said the militants sit at home with their families during the day, and take up guns to fight Afghan and Western forces at night. The joint team will continues its probe tomorrow.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.

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