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Today's Top News
Stop Civilian Deaths, Karzai Tells Obama
Wedding guests believed killed by U.S. air strike
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to end civilian casualties once and for all yesterday amid reports that dozens of women and children were killed in U.S. air strikes on a wedding party in southern Afghanistan.
The U.S. military said it was investigating the reported bombing. A spokesperson added, "if innocent people were killed, we apologize and express our condolences."
The governor of Kandahar province, Rahmatullah Raufi, told a news conference yesterday that the Taliban attacked an American convoy in an area where a wedding party was also underway.
The Americans responded by calling in an air strike, he said.
"It was a mistake - they hit the wedding party and thought it was the Taliban," Raufi said. "The plane hit the mountain and the village, too, which resulted in heavy civilian casualties."
The governor declined to venture a guess on the number of dead. Accounts from others varied widely.
One witness, Juma Khan, said 37 people, including 23 children and 10 women, were killed in his compound. A senior official with Kandahar's provincial government put the death toll as high as 90.
The report of air strikes in the Shah Wali Kot district comes three months after the Afghan government and a preliminary UN investigation found that a U.S. operation killed some 90 civilians in western Afghanistan.
Initially, U.S. officials said five to seven people died in that attack on the village in Herat province, but a subsequent American investigation prompted by video evidence raised that toll to 33.
Canadian ground troops also operate in the Shah Wali Kot region but were not involved in Monday's hostilities, said Canadian Forces spokesperson Maj. Jay Janzen.
"Canadian troops are responsible for Kandahar province. We do occasionally go into the Shah Wali Kot area but do not proceed as far north as where the incident occurred."
Karzai referred to the bombing at a news conference yesterday to congratulate Obama on his victory in the U.S. presidential election.
Karzai said his first demand of the new president is to prevent civilian casualties in operations by foreign forces, specifically air strikes that he said had caused deaths in the Shah Wali Kot district.
"As we speak, there are civilian casualties in Afghanistan," Karzai said.
"The coalition and Afghan authorities are investigating reports of non-combatant casualties in the village of Wech Baghtu," said Cmdr. Jeff Bender, spokesperson for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.