US admits Afghan civilian deaths

More civilians died in US attack on village than previously reported, report finds.

    The US military had claimed dozens of Taliban fighters were among those killed  [AFP/AFGHAN POLICE]

    Videos showed the bodies of 12 children, three women and eight men were laid out for burial in the village mosque the day after the fighting, the report said.

    The incident brought angry recriminations from Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and added to fears that support for the US military in Afghanistan was being further undermined by repeated cases of civilian casualties at the hands of US-led forces.

    'Self defence'

    But the Callan report defended the actions of the US and Afghan
    forces involved in the incident as "necessary and proportional ... self-defence ... based on the information the on-scene commander had at
    the time" it said.

    The commander had been informed dozens of fighters were holding a meeting in the village, which led to the attack.

    "US and Afghan forces did not commit any violations of the law of war or rules of engagement," the report concluded.

    Karzai told villagers that those responsible would be punished [EPA]

    The lists of dead villagers obtained by Afghan and UN officials that showed that 90 civilians were killed "are unsubstantiated," the report said.

    Three men were arrested days after the raids after allegedly providing "wrong information" to US and Afghan forces.

    The arrests followed a police investigation into the incident after villagers said US-led forces in Afghanistan had been fed false information about the presence of Taliban members in Azizabad following a tribal dispute, according to interior ministry officials.

    President Karzai sacked two senior Afghan army commanders over the incident and pledged to punish those responsible.

    Tribal dispute

    Locals told Al Jazeera at the time that the air raid hit a memorial service at a compound belonging to Reza Khan, a tribal leader who had been in dispute with Nader Tawakal, another local leader.

    "We were holding a prayer ceremony when the bombs started to fall ... it was heavy bombardment. The whole village was on fire and about 90 were killed," Abdul Rasheed, the brother of one of the dead, said.

    Villagers denied that the gathering was a meeting of the Taliban, which has been fighting Afghan and international forces since being forced from power in 2001.

    More than 500 civilians have been killed during military operations by foreign and Afghan forces so far this year, according to the Afghan government and some aid groups.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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