Wednesday, Oct 8, 2008
WASHINGTON — An investigation by the military has concluded that American airstrikes on Aug. 22 in a village in western Afghanistan killed far more civilians than American commanders there have acknowledged, according to two American military officials.
The military investigator’s report found that more than 30 civilians — not 5 to 7 as the military has long insisted — died in the airstrikes against a suspected Taliban compound in Azizabad.
The investigator, Brig. Gen. Michael W. Callan of the Air Force, concluded that many more civilians, including women and children, had been buried in the rubble than the military had asserted, one of the military officials said.
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The airstrikes have been the focus of sharp tensions between the Afghan government, which has said that 90 civilians died in the raid, and the American military, under Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, which has repeatedly insisted that only a handful of civilians were killed.
The report was requested by General McKiernan on Sept. 7, more than two weeks after the airstrikes, in response to what he said at the time was “emerging evidence” about the raids. While American commanders in Afghanistan have contended that 30 to 35 militants were killed in the raid, the new report concludes that many among that group were in fact civilians, the military officials said.
According to the new report, fewer than 20 militants died in the raid, which was conducted jointly by American and Afghan forces, and in subsequent airstrikes carried out by an AC-130 gunship in support of the allied ground forces.
The revised American estimate for civilian deaths in the operation remains far below the 90 that Afghan and United Nations officials have claimed, a figure that the Afghan government and the United Nations said was supported by cellphone photos, freshly dug grave sites and the accounts of witnesses who saw the dead bodies.
This article was posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at 11:05 am