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US air strikes kill dozens of Afghan civilians

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Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Mark Tran
London Guardian
Wednesday, May 6, 2009

US-led air strikes killed dozens of Afghans, including women and children, the Red Cross said today as the Pentagon launched a joint investigation into what appeared to be one of the heaviest civilian death tolls at the hands of coalition forces.

Rohul Amin, the governor of Farah province in western Afghanistan, where the bombing took place during a battle on Monday and Tuesday, said he feared 100 civilians had been killed.

The provincial police chief, Abdul Ghafar Watandar, who accused the Taliban of using the civilians as human shields, said the death toll could be even higher. If confirmed, those figures could make the strike the single most deadliest for Afghan civilians since the opening of the campaign to topple the Taliban in 2001.

Jessica Barry, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said one of its teams reached the scene of the air strikes yesterday afternoon.

“There were women and there were children who were killed. It seemed they were trying to shelter in houses when they were hit,” she said.

The team saw destroyed houses and dozens of dead bodies, providing the first international confirmation of the incident. Among those killed was a first aid volunteer for Afghanistan’s Red Crescent, who died along with 13 members of his family, Barry said.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 3:17 am

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