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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 14:31 GMT
Afghan leader says US bombed civilians
Bullet-ridden vehicle
The aftermath of one of the US raids
Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, says America has acknowledged wrongly bombing innocent Afghan civilians.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Mr Karzai also contradicted US accounts of two controversial incidents in which about 80 people died.

Mr Karzai told the Post that the Americans had "immediately come to explain, immediately apologised" over bombing raids that had gone wrong.

Mr Karzai is visiting the west of Afghanistan, an area through which the US says al-Qaeda fighters have been escaping into Iran.

'A mistake'

Mr Karzai told the Washington Post that a raid on a Taleban compound in the village of Hazar Qadam two weeks ago in which at least 15 people died was "a mistake of sorts".

The US has insisted that its bombs killed al-Qaeda fighters.

AC-130 gunship
US planes have 'new procedures', Karzai says

But village elders said at the time the victims were innocent people sent to the compound by a pro-government official to negotiate the surrender of weapons from Taleban hideouts.

In another raid Mr Karzai referred to, 65 people were killed when a convoy was bombed in December.

America has always maintained the convoy comprised al-Qaeda or Taleban fighters.

But local people said the convoy was made up of people who had left the eastern town of Khost who were travelling to Kabul to attend Mr Karzai's inauguration.

Mr Karzai told the Post that the dead were "tribal elders".

The Afghan leader said US forces had been issued with new procedures to cut out the risk of more mistaken bombing.

There has been no official US reaction to Mr Karzai's comments.

Iran denial

This was Mr Karzai's first interview with western media since returning from a high-profile diplomatic tour of the United States and Britain.

Hamid Karzai
Karzai's battle against 'warlordism' has hit problems

He is now attempting to assert the power of central government in Afghanistan, pledging to rid the country of "warlordism".

On Wednesday Mr Karzai travelled to the western city of Herat, controlled by Ismail Khan, a veteran of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The region is the centre of a diplomatic dispute between the United States and Iran.

The US has accused Tehran of trying to exert its influence there.

Ismail Khan has denied reports that he is receiving military help from Iran. He has also pledged his loyalty to Mr Karzai.

Refusal

In eastern Afghanistan, there is no sign that a dispute over the city of Gardez will be resolved.

The man appointed by Mr Karzai to run Gardez, Padshah Khan Zadran, was driven out of the city by a rival warlord, Saif Ullah, last week.

Mr Zadran is now refusing to attend talks to resolve their differences, Reuters news agency reports.

See also:

23 Dec 01 | Europe
Germany approves Afghan force
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