Relatives of Afghans killed in a US-led coalition raid in western Herat province have offered to dig up graves to support claims of large-scale civilian deaths.
An Afghan woman on on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008 holds a poster with photos of her family members, who were killed on August 22, 2008 during a US led raid in Azizabad village of Shindand district of Herat province.
More photos and list of the victims
Photo Gallery of US victims in Afghanistan
The Afghan Victim Memorial Project by Prof. Marc
The Aug. 22 air strike in Shindand district has outraged Afghans and opened a rift between coalition forces on the one hand and the Afghan government and the UN on the other, which both say that more than 90 civilians were killed.
The US military, which earlier disputed that figure, said it would re-investigate after new evidence had emerged about civilian casualties in the raid on Azizabad village.
"We are ready to dig out every grave to show the Americans that civilians, including women and children, were killed in the air strikes," village elder Gul Ahmad Khan, who said he lost three children in the strike, said.
But Khan, who represented the village during President Hamid Karzai's visit last week to commiserate with the families, said the US must first agree it would pull out all its forces from the country if it was proved that civilians died in the strike.
"We will welcome them if they visit our bombed village to investigate. But we should have a deal first, if the Americans are proved wrong, then they should leave Afghanistan in shame," he said.
The US military earlier said the raid had targeted a Taliban commander who was among 30 to 35 militants killed in the strike. It said five to seven civilians were killed.
Villagers said false intelligence about the presence of Taliban in the village had been fed to coalition forces and have urged the Afghan government to punish those responsible.
A group of women, wailing outside their ruined homes, demanded that the Afghan government hand over a man named Nadir to them. They said he had misled foreign forces.
"I don't want anything from the Americans, even if they give the whole of the Afghanistan I don't want it," screamed Mah Pari. "We want the government to hand us over Nadir alive," she said.
Pari said she lost four members of her family when bombs struck a house where people had gathered for a charity dinner to mark the death of a villager six months ago.
Wali Mohammad, another villager, said many died while fleeing the bombing. "They were shot dead by from the air," he said, adding his wife lost her sight in the strike.
Villagers showed a Reuters journalist a grainy cellphone video of a row of bodies lying in shrouds and blankets on the floor of the village mosque. It was not clear from the video how many bodies there were.
Another video showed bodies being taken to the graveyard.
At least 60 of the dead were women and children, the Afghan government says.
"Under any shape it occurred, this event must be regarded as the biggest violation by Nato forces in Afghanistan," state-controlled Afghan daily Anis said in an editorial.
The US military, which has proposed a review of the operation, said new evidence in the form of "imagery" had emerged about the coalition strike in Shindand.
"There is some evidence that suggests that the evidence that the United States military used in the conduct of its investigation may not have been complete," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on Monday. He did not specify.
The military said earlier that the air strike was called in after Afghan army and US-led coalition forces came under intense fire during an offensive in the Shindand area.
Taliban militants had planned to attack a nearby coalition base,the US military said, citing evidence such as weapons, explosives and intelligence materials.
Violence in Afghanistan this year is at its highest level since the 2001 invasion by US-led coalition forces, with more than 2,500 people killed.