Alleged US Massacre in Afghanistan 'Provoked by False Information'
An alleged civilian massacre by United States forces was deliberately provoked by false information from villagers pursuing a feud an investigation claims.
As many as 91 civilians were killed when a neighbouring villager lied to US special forces about Taliban positions it was claimed.
The deaths in a night assault by US planes last summer provoked outrage among Afghans and severely strained relations with Hamid Karzai's regime.
US commanders initially said no civilians had been killed in the village of Azizabad in Herat province despite United Nations and independent human rights group investigations putting the civilian toll at up to 91.
A later US military investigation admitted 30 had died in the assault, but maintained the forces had attacked and killed 22 Taliban fighters.
However a film for Channel 4's Dispatches reports there is now doubt any Taliban were present and the strike was instead part of a feud based on competition for lucrative jobs at the nearby Shindand airbase.
Seven months after the attack, Mohammed Nader of neighbouring Kalask village was sentenced to death by a court for knowingly giving US special forces false information about Azizabad. Residents had testified to seeing Nader with the raiders that night.
US soldiers entered the village in the early hours of August 22 last year following reports of Taliban sheltering there. They said they called in a heavily armed AC130 gunship after coming under fire, however villager told the programme US troops opened fire without provocation.
Gul Ahmad, a villager, said: "The women and children tried to run away from it. They killed everything, everyone, the elderly, anything that moved." The film also reports the feud has continued with provincial officials accusing US special forces of siding with the Kalask faction.
Afghan police officers told the programme that after a further clash between the villages in December, US special forces had demanded police hand over men from the Azizabad faction who had been arrested.
One Azizabad man was bundled away by Afghan guards and his badly beaten body returned hours later.
Afghan authorities allege the US has refused to co operate with demands they hand over the guards involved.
Maj John H Redfield, a US military spokesman, said it stood by the findings of its investigation into the Azizabad deaths. He did not comment on the wanted men.