US Military Admits Killing 33 Civilians in Afghanistan Air Strike

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

US Military Admits Killing 33 Civilians in Afghanistan Air Strike

The inquiry found that of the 33 dead civilians, eight were men, three were women and 12 children.

by
Matthew Weaver and agencies

Afghans are seen over the graves of family members allegedly killed after a US raid on Azizabad in Afghanistan in August. (Photograph: Fraidoon Pooyaa/AP)

The US military has admitted killing 33 civilians in an air strike
on a village in Afghanistan in August, far more than it has previously
acknowledged.

Following the August 22 attack on Azizabad, in
Heart province, the Afghan government claimed that 90 civilians, mainly
women and children, were killed. This figure was backed by the UN.

Until
now the US has estimated that that no more than seven civilians died in
the attack. It launched an inquiry after it emerged that film recorded
on mobile phones showed rows of bodies of children and babies in a
makeshift morgue.

The inquiry found that of the 33 dead
civilians, eight were men, three were women and 12 children. The 10
others were undetermined. It also claimed that 22 Taliban fighters were
killed in the attack.

The inquiry dismissed the Afghan government's estimate as being over-reliant on statements from villagers.

"Their
reports lack independent evidence to support the allegations of higher
numbers of civilian casualties," the US report said.

A spokesman for the Afghan government said it stood by its estimate.

The
US expressed regret for the civilian losses but blamed the Taliban for
having chosen to take up fighting positions near civilians.

"Unfortunately,
and unknown to the US and Afghan forces, the (militants) chose fighting
positions in close proximity to civilians," the report said.

The
acting commander of US forces in the Middle East, Lieutenant General
Martin Dempsey, said the attack was based on credible intelligence and
was made in self-defence.

"We are deeply saddened at the loss of
innocent life in Azizabad. We go to great lengths to avoid civilian
casualties in Afghanistan in all our operations, but as we have seen
all too often, this ruthless enemy routinely surround themselves with
innocents," he said.

US central command said its investigation
was based on 28 interviews resulting in more than 20 hours of recorded
testimony from Afghan government officials, Afghan village elders,
officials from non-governmental organisations, US and Afghan troops,
236 documents and 11 videos.

The issue of civilian deaths has
outraged Afghans and strained relations with foreign forces which are
in Afghanistan to help fight the insurgency. The Afghanistan president,
Hamid Karzai, has warned US and Nato for years that they must stop
killing civilians on bombing runs against militants, saying the deaths
undermine his government and the international mission.

Following
the raid on Azizabad Nato's commander in Afghanistan, General David
McKiernan, issued revised tactics and procedures for air and ground
assaults against insurgents.

 

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