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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
US justifies Afghan wedding bombing
Graves of bombing victims
Afghans say 48 people were killed in the airstrike
A US airstrike that killed dozens of guests at a wedding party in Afghanistan in July was justified, a US military investigation has concluded.

AC-130
The US say their gunship was fired on
Its report says people at the party in central Afghanistan's Uruzgan province who fired at US aircraft were to blame, not the American pilots who returned the fire.

"While the coalition regrets the loss of innocent lives, the responsibility for that loss rests with those that knowingly directed hostile fire at coalition forces," the report says.

However, the Afghan Border Affairs Minister, Arif Noorzai, told the BBC that he doubted that the report would be accepted by Afghans.

The Afghan Government says 48 civilians - mostly women and children - were killed and 117 injured by the US AC-130 aircraft during the incident, which severely strained relations between Washington and Kabul.

Self-defence

The US report says that the crew of the AC-130 gunship acted "properly and in accordance with the rules" in attacking several sites in the Deh Rawood area.

It also says reconnaissance patrols heard gunfire and explosions at all hours of the day and night, and that the AC-130 came under fire itself.

"The operators of those weapons elected to place them in civilian communities and elected to fire them at coalition forces at a time when they knew there were a significant number of civilians present," the report says.

The US investigators say the airstrike was part of a larger operation in the area, which the report says was at the time home to families of several key Taleban leaders.

No evidence

The Afghan officials and survivors of the incident say the only gunfire from the area came from the guests who fired their rifles in celebration.

Victim of the US airstrike
Many of the victims were children

Despite the report's claims that heavy weapons had been fired at the US aircraft in the days before the raid, the American investigators found no evidence of anti-aircraft weapons at the bombed sites.

The report says that the US investigation could only confirm 34 dead and about 50 wounded.

Washington has not used the word "apology" because of differing accounts of what happened during the 1 July airstrike.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

13 Jul 02 | South Asia
02 Jul 02 | South Asia
04 Jul 02 | South Asia
02 Jul 02 | South Asia
20 Oct 01 | Americas
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