Afghan official ‘saw bodies of 50 children’ killed in US strike

Source: The Daily Star, August 30, 2008

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

KABUL: An Afghan politician told AFP Friday how he had helped dig out the bodies of women and children after US-led air strikes a week ago, reiterating with another official that around 90 civilians were killed.

The US-led coalition disputes the number and says only five civilians died along with 25 Taliban. US officials have also reportedly questioned the figure because of a lack of physical evidence.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, US defense officials said that the Afghan and UN counts of the civilians killed in the raid were overstated. The sources said that the US administration was pushing for a joint probe into the incident in order to reconcile the conflicting accounts of the incident.

“I saw with my own eyes bodies of 50 boys and girls under 15 years of age,” said Herat provincial councillor Naik Mohammad Ishaq.

“I saw 19 women and seven men. I helped locals to dig them out [of rubble] the first day,” he told AFP.

He said he went to the area of the August 22 strikes in the district of Shindand hours after the attack and he was told that more bodies had been found the day after, taking the toll to 91.

“We lined up the bodies of 76 civilians the first day in the local mosque and the Afghan intelligence department took a video recording as proof that most of them were women, children and all civilians,” he said.

Ishaq said, however, that he did not have pictures of the dead.

The head of a delegation sent by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate also defended the toll figure, similar to one reached by a United Nations team.

“There is no doubt that 90 civilians were killed in the US-led air strike,” said Mohammad Eqbal Safi, the head of the Lower House’s national defense committee.

The team had a list of the names and ages of all those killed, he said, and had interviewed locals and seen eight houses that were destroyed as well as fresh graves.

He claimed body parts – which he said were from civilians – were still at the site when his team arrived two days later.

The 2:00 a.m. strikes had hit people ahead of an event due the following day to mark the anniversary of the death of a fellow villager, Safi said.

“It was public knowledge that it was a gathering for the ceremony and there were no Taliban there.”

Safi said locals believed “agents” had deliberately given wrong information to the US-led and Afghan troops involved in the operation. – AFP

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