The United Nations went into abrupt reverse yesterday and said it no longer
intended to release a report compiled by a team of UN officials who visited the
site where a US warplane attacked a wedding party in Afghanistan on 1 July.
The change of tack by the UN was apparently the result of pressure from within
its own hierarchy, particularly in Afghanistan itself, and from the US not to
release the report that allegedly contradicts claims made by the US about the
circumstances of the attack.
The controversy first erupted on Monday when it emerged that a first
draft of the report written by the UN fact-finding team featured a number
of potentially embarrassing allegations. They included the charge that the US
had under-reported the numbers of people who had died and US soldiers had removed
evidence from the site, suggesting a cover-up.
A UN spokesman said on Monday that a final draft would be made public within
24 hours. That had all changed by yesterday morning, however. Instead, a statement
from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said the report would
remain an internal document and would be shown only to the Afghan and American
The row came as Kabul released fresh details of a bombing attack that was
foiled when a man driving a car loaded with explosives was arrested in the capital
on Monday. Officials said the man was a foreigner, which often means Arab or Pakistani
in local parlance. By all accounts, the plot, if successful, could have been devastatingly
effective. The plotter had allegedly planned to detonate himself and the car in
an attack either on the president, Hamid Karzai, his top officials or on foreign
targets such as the US embassy or the headquarters of the International Security
The Toyota was packed with large quantities of TNT and C4 explosives that
could have caused widespread damage.
It would have been detonated by wires connected to two extra car batteries.
"He mentioned Karzai as one of his natural targets," Amruallah Salhi, an Afghan
security official, said of the suspect. "What we have gathered indicates he was
a suicide bomber."
Though it was thwarted, the plot highlights the vulnerability of the new Afghan
In the statement, the UN Assistance Mission said: "The United Nations was
not involved in either an inquiry or an investigation but simply responding to
humanitarian needs as it does everywhere in the world." Sources confirmed the
UN report had put the death toll at 80, compared to 48 deaths cited by the Afghan
government. The Pentagon said it found only five graves there.
* The White House has set up an office devoted to improving the United States'
image. The Office on Global Communications was unveiled yesterday just as a New
York-based institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, urged Mr Bush to fix "America's
shaky image abroad" before negative sentiment undercuts US interests.
© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd