U.S. Bombing Kills Up to 40 in Afghanistan-Reports

Reuters, December 28, 2001

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - At least 40 people were killed when U.S. jets bombed Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province, sources in Pakistan's border tribal rim said on Thursday.

"The attack took place when the people were asleep,'' said one source quoting witnesses from Naka village, which was among those reportedly hit.

At least five houses were destroyed in the bombardment, including the house of one commander in the vanquished fundamentalist Taliban, Maulvi Taha, the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).

Witnesses said he was not in the house at the time and was unharmed, AIP said.

The source in the Waziristan tribal agency on the border with Paktika said 40 people were killed, up to 60 wounded and 25 houses destroyed in the raid.

AIP put the death toll at 25 with four wounded and quoted witnesses as saying the bombing was so severe that it was difficult to identify some of the dead.

The villagers said they did not understand why they had been bombed, saying that no members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda militant network were in the area.

"Neither Osama nor any other foreigner is in our village,'' the source quoted one villager as saying.

The villagers said they supported the new U.N.-sponsored interim government in Afghanistan, the source said.

The report of the attack comes a week after U.S. planes hit a convoy that Washington insists was carrying al Qaeda leaders and their Taliban protectors in neighboring Paktia province.

Local residents and survivors said the convoy was en route to the inauguration of the new interim government of Hamid Karzai at the weekend in Kabul when it came under attack. About 65 people were killed.

Abdul Hakim Munib, a local elder, on Thursday said Karzai had promised he would ask the United States to halt aerial attacks on Paktia. He said Karzai had also appointed a team to investigate the incident.

U.S. officials have insisted the convoy had opened fire on U.S. aircraft just before it was bombed and had been carrying leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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