CTV.ca News, May 23, 2006

US airstrike on Afghan village kills dozens civilians

People at the local hospital "are saying perhaps hundreds have been killed."

With a report from CTV's Janis Mackey Frayer

Up to 80 suspected Taliban militants and an unknown number of civilians died after U.S.-led coalition forces bombed a village in southern Afghanistan.

A child injured in the Panjwaee bombings by the US troops
RAWA: 3 year-old Mohammad Imran in a local hospital in Kandahar. According to villagers all of his family members were killed after the coalition forces bombed their village in Panjwaee of Kandahar province.

A child injured in the Panjwaee bombings by the US troops
RAWA: This person who is hospitalized in Kandahar, told journalists: "We saw that over 45 villagers, many of them women and children, were buried alive under rubbers when their homes were bombed by the US troops. Taliban come and force us on gunpoint to give them shelter in our village but they had already left the village when the air raid started."

U.S. warplanes reportedly dropped bombs on an Islamic religious school and homes in which Taliban fighters had taken up position during the strike late Sunday and early Monday.

"I heard the noise of the jets. Then they started bombing the entire village," said one man, speaking in Pashto.

The attack happened in Punjwaee district, a stubborn stronghold for the Taliban.

The village is also known by the name Hajiyan. It is made up of about 30-35 large mud-brick compounds, each housing an extended family with up to 50 members.

The village has a mosque and one madrassa, where boys study. It has no electricity and relies on wells for water.

"It was rather cowardly on their part and if they had chosen to either leave the area and fight us somewhere else or perhaps if they had stopped short of going into those houses, we wouldn't have seen as many civilian casualties as we did today," he said.

Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid told reporters the strike had killed villagers because the Taliban were "using houses as their trenches."

"These sort of accidents happen during fighting, especially when the Taliban are hiding in homes," Khalid told The Associated Press.

"I urge people not to give shelter to the Taliban."

Khalid said the strikes had left around 16 civilians dead.

However, CTV's Janis Mackey Frayer, said people at the local hospital "are saying perhaps hundreds have been killed."

Reporting from Kandahar, Mackey Frayer said it was "very difficult to get information" as "the village has been blocked off."

U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry told reporters the military was investigating reports of civilian deaths.

Mackey Frayer said the coalition won't be conducting a full investigation.

This situation could have repercussions in the "hearts and minds" part of the mission, she said.

"The reason Canadians were here last week is because Afghans have stepped forward to say, 'There are Taliban here, and we want some help to push them back'," she said.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) expressed concern over civilian casualties. "We have been informed with deep regret that civilians, including women, children and old people, have suffered heavy casualties in the recent operation".
Earlier, ICRC has also expressed concern over the civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict in southern parts of the country.
Pajhwok Afghan News, May 24, 2006

"So that implied trust might be difficult to win back."

A bad week

The new deaths brought the toll of militants, Afghan forces and coalition soldiers killed to more than 265 since Wednesday, when a storm of violence broke out in the south and resulted in the death of Canadian soldier Capt. Nichola Goddard.

Many of the wounded sought treatment at Kandahar city's Mirwaise Hospital, where local doctors told reporters that children were among those injured.

One survivor from the village, who was cradling her wounded baby, told AP that 10 people were killed in her home, including three or four children. "There were dead people everywhere," AP quoted her as saying.

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