New York Times, August 23, 2004

US Soldiers Kill 3 Civilians at a Checkpoint in Afghanistan


KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 22 - Soldiers from the American-led alliance killed three people after a pickup truck carrying them failed to stop at a checkpoint on Saturday night, officials said Sunday. A statement issued by the American ambassador here, Zalmay Khalilzad, expressed condolences for the loss of "innocent life" in the incident.

Two of the dead were females and one was a male, according to a statement issued by military officials. Their ages were not provided. A man and a woman were also critically injured and evacuated from the site of the episode, in Ghazni Province, to Bagram Air Base.

The incident occurred around 10:30 p.m. at a newly established checkpoint, jointly staffed by allied and Afghan soldiers, said Haji Asadullah Khal, the governor of Ghazni Province, which is south of Kabul, the capital. The members of a family were returning to their village when they came upon the checkpoint.

The statement said that the pickup truck "attempted to run through a joint Afghan National Army-Coalition checkpoint," prompting allied soldiers to open fire. The statement did not specify the soldiers' nationality, but American forces constitute the bulk of the alliance and have been operating in Ghazni. A search of the truck subsequently found no weapons, according to the statement.

The governor, Mr. Khal, said that Afghan National Army soldiers had told him that they fired a warning shot after the truck failed to stop at an initial checkpoint and that soldiers at a second checkpoint then opened fire.

The governor said the driver of the truck, who survived, told him that he neither saw signs telling him to stop nor heard any warning shot.

"It can be difficult in the night to see the checkpoints," Mr. Khal said.

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