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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
US to probe Afghan bombing 'blunder'
Victims at Kandahar hospital
The wounded were taken to Kandahar hospital
America is sending a fact-finding team to investigate a bombing error which killed at least 30 civilians at a wedding party in Afghanistan.

At least one of those bombs was errant - we don't know where it went

Pentagon spokesman
There is still confusion about what exactly happened, but American military officials admit that a bomb dropped from a B-52 aircraft went astray during an operation in Uruzgan province.

A witness told the BBC that the raid left scores of people - many of them women - dead in the village of Dehrawad, 400 kilometres (250 miles) south-west of Kabul, while officials in the capital put the death toll at at least 30.

An Afghan delegation left Kabul for Dehrawad by road on Tuesday morning, saying it was too dangerous to fly to the region.

US helicopters were also ferrying a team of soldiers from Bagram airbase, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Kabul, to the scene of the bombing.

A US military spokesman said four injured civilians had been airlifted to hospital by US forces.

Celebratory gunfire

In Washington, a military spokesman said a coalition air reconnaissance patrol flying in the area had reported coming under anti-aircraft artillery fire.

Map of Afghanistan showing Uruzgan province

Some reports suggest that the American planes may have mistaken celebratory gunfiring at the wedding for hostile fire aimed at them.

But a US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Roger King, said: "The fire that we received from the ground, that would probably be the heaviest fire we've seen in at least a month."

"We don't know anything about a wedding party," he added.

A Pentagon spokesman said the B-52 bomber dropped seven 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs.

But not all the bombs hit their intended targets.

"At least one of those bombs was errant. We don't know where it went," said Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Commander Jeff Davis.

The Americans say that several legitimate ground targets were hit, including the anti-aircraft artillery sites that had been firing.

The village hit is in the same area as the ancestral home of the fugitive leader of the former Taleban regime, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

'Compatriots martyred'

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said aid was being organised for the area and a commission had been set up to investigate the incident.

A young survivor of the bombing in hospital
A survivor said victims had to wait many hours before help arrived

"We have learned with regret that a number of our compatriots have been martyred and injured as a result of accidental bombing in Dehrawad district, Uruzgan province," he said.

US forces operating in Afghanistan have made a number of errors during the campaign against the Taleban and al-Qaeda forces:

  • Four Canadian soldiers were killed in April when a US fighter bombed them by mistake during a training exercise

  • In January, US bombs killed civilians in the village of Hazar Qadam, targeted as a Taleban compound

  • Last December, planes bombed a convoy from the eastern town of Khost, killing people Mr Karzai said were tribal elders travelling to his inauguration as interim leader

  • Last October, a targeting error led to a bomb hitting a residential area of Kabul, instead of a helicopter at the airport.

    The BBC's Jonathan Head
    "The new Afghan government demands that civilians are better protected from US firepower"
    Eyewitness Abdul Saboor
    "There are no al-Qaeda or Taleban here"
    Afghan government official Josef Noristani
    "We hope this is not repeated in the future"


    Political uncertainty






    See also:

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    12 Feb 02 | South Asia
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    23 Dec 01 | South Asia
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