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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Karam raid examined
A US air strike on an area to the west of the Afghan capital of Kabul has sparked a war of words over the numbers of casualties. BBC News Online examines the claims and counterclaims.

The US denied Taleban reports that it killed scores of people in the raid but has confirmed that planes bombed the Karam area about 61 km (38 miles) from the city of Jalalabad, saying the strikes were aimed at underground arms dumps.

Taleban radio asserted that the US was deliberately targeting civilians and had totally destroyed Karam, killing 170 people.

Journalists taken to Karam reported scenes of devastation, with dozens of mud houses burned or destroyed and the stench of death in the air.

A BBC correspondent among them met children who had lost all other members of their family, and the villagers themselves spoke of 200 people dead.

'Race elimination'

The Taleban broadcast said 170 "faithful and Muslim compatriots" had been killed in Karam.

All these criminal actions reveal that America has started race elimination in Afghanistan

Taleban radio

US warplanes were "attacking people's residential areas and houses and killing... children, women and elders in a policy of race elimination", it said.

The radio compared Washington's air strikes to the "criminal" actions of the Israeli security forces against Palestinians, and called for a general holy war against "infidels".

The "fierce wave" of the Taleban's holy war would grow in power and "drown" the US, it said.


Osama Bin Laden's militants are believed to have training camps in the mountains around Karam.

Villager sifts through debris at Karam, 14 October
The US says there are no actual bomb craters in Karam itself

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said reconnaissance photographs had shown the village as "not heavily occupied" just before the air strikes, and the Taleban death toll was "ridiculous".

"We do not have information that validates any of that," he said but added that Washington's information on the ground in Afghanistan was "imperfect".

The Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Richard Myers, said the bombers had struck at arms stores hidden in tunnels and caves, and he suggested that exploding munitions might have caused further damage.

Remarking that "they were not cooking cookies inside the tunnels", Mr Rumsfeld said the signs were that a major arms dump had been struck:

One-year old child, said to have been injured in Karam, in hospital in Jalalabad
The US repeatedly stresses that some civilian casualties are inevitable
"You do not spend that kind of money and dig that far in and store that many weapons and munitions that it would cause that kind of sustained secondary explosions, unless you have very serious purposes for doing it."

Mr Rumsfeld also accused the Taleban, whom he described as "accomplished liars", of "shepherding around" the foreign journalists who actually visited Karam.

The fact that the Taleban took journalists to the village marked a change in the movement's strategy, as it had previously banned TV and photography as blasphemous.

Wesley Clark, NATO Supreme Allied Commander
for Europe in Kosovo anlayses the current military strategy
Acting Taleban Ambassador to Pakistan Suhail Shaheen
spoke to the BBC's Andrew Whitehead
See also:

12 Oct 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Villages turn to rubble
15 Oct 01 | South Asia
War View: Are the air strikes wise?
14 Oct 01 | South Asia
Fresh US raids follow bombing error
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