Response to The lies continue

And they've done it again...this is from today's NY Times Associated Press The graves of nine children in the cemetery in the village of Hutala in eastern Afghanistan. The children were killed by mistake during an American airstrike against a suspected Taliban fighter on Saturday. U.S. Says Other Afghan Children Died in Earlier Raid By CARLOTTA GALL Published: December 11, 2003 ABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 10 — For the second time in a week, the American military has acknowledged that children were victims of airstrikes aimed at Taliban fighters. A military spokesman said Wednesday that six children and two adults were found under a collapsed wall after an attack on Friday night by American Special Forces on the compound of a known militant. The airstrike was called in after the soldiers came under heavy machine-gun fire. The United States previously acknowledged having killed nine children in an airstrike on Saturday against a suspected Taliban fighter in southern Afghanistan. The killings are an embarrassment to the military, which is seeking to provide a secure environment for an Afghan constitutional council that is to convene here next weekend. Although military officials were aware on Saturday of the Friday incident that led to the deaths of the six children, they did not acknowledge it until Wednesday, and then only in response to a question at a news conference in Kabul. The United Nations and the office of President Hamid Karzai expressed renewed concerns about the political damage inflicted by such incidents. The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have both expressed regrets for the deaths of the nine children killed on Saturday and promised relief assistance for the village. The attack on Friday was aimed at the well-defended compound of a known militant, Mullah Jilani, just outside the town of Gardez, 60 miles south of Kabul. Mullah Jilani is suspected of connections with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, as well as with a renegade mujahedeen commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is also on the United States list of wanted terrorists. According to the military, Special Forces troops mounting the assault called in airstrikes after gunfire erupted from the compound. "We were conducting a night assault on the compound," Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said at a news conference in Kabul. "We observed a heavy machine gun firing from a compound that we had no indication there were noncombatants in. We fired on the compound from the air and the machine gun stopped." It was only the next morning that troops searched the compound and found the bodies of six children and two adults under a collapsed wall. "We don't know what caused the collapse of the wall because although we fired on the compound there were secondary and tertiary explosions inside the compound," Colonel Hilferty said. He did not identify the two adults who died but said Mullah Jilani was not found. Asadullah Wafa, the governor of Paktia Province, where the raid happened, confirmed the deaths in a telephone interview from Gardez. He said the victims, who lived in the compound, belonged to the family of an associate of Mullah Jilani. Nine suspected militants were captured in the raid, during which troops also found dozens of weapons, including artillery pieces, machine guns and rockets. Colonel Hilferty said the rules of engagement were stringent, noting that the soldiers had not fired on 10 people seen leaving the compound because they could not be identified as combatants. "We try very hard not to kill anyone," he said. "We would prefer to capture the terrorists rather than kill them. But in this incident, if noncombatants surround themselves with thousands of weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and howitzers and mortars in a compound known to be used by a terrorist, we are not completely responsible for the consequences." A presidential spokesman, Hamid Elmi, said he did not yet have independent confirmation of the incident, but expressed deep concern at the news. "It is a very serious issue for the government," he said. Mr. Karzai had ordered a government delegation headed by two ministers to investigate the scene of the airstrike Saturday, a sign of his profound concern about the consequences of such civilian casualties, he said. Hundreds of delegates have been arriving this week in Kabul for the constitutional grand council to approve a new constitution for the country. American and Afghan officials say they have received specific intelligence that the Taliban and Mr. Hekmatyar intend to disrupt the proceedings. In an effort to pre-empt any serious attacks, United States forces began an operation that put about 2,000 troops into action across the south, southeast and east of the country to put the Taliban and other groups on the defensive. The airstrikes that resulted in the children's death were part of that operation. A spokesman for the United Nations, Manoel de Almeida e Silva, expressed "regret and concern" over the latest incident. "In addition to contributing to a sense of fear and insecurity these kinds of incidents make it easier for those who wish to spoil the peace process to rally support," he said.

Created By: Mollie Huggins