Errant U.S. Bomb Kills 11 Afghan Civilians
The U.S. accidentally bombed the house in Shkin, a key border crossing point from Pakistan, after unidentified assailants attacked a checkpoint manned by Afghan soldiers allied with American forces near the town, the military said in a written statement.
Douglas Lefforge, a spokesman at the U.S. military’s headquarters at Bagram air base north of Kabul, told reporters that “a quick reaction force from Shkin responded and pursued the attackers towards the border; close air support was requested.”
Lefforge said U.S. Marine Corps AV-8 Harriers pursued two groups of five to 10 enemy personnel, firing cannons at one group and aiming a 1,000-pound laser-guided bomb at the other.
“That bomb missed its intended target and landed on the house,” he told reporters. “The circumstances of the bombing are being investigated.”
An aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai described the incident as “unfortunate.”
“Every measure should be taken to prevent such an incident,” said Sayed Tayeb Jawad, Karzai’s chief of staff.
The governor of the province where the bombing occurred expressed his frustration, telling Reuters that “we have told them repeatedly that they need to try to be precise when they target something.”
The last major civilian casualties caused by American-led forces in Afghanistan occurred in July 2002, when an Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked several villages in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. Forty-eight civilians were killed and 117 were wounded, Afghan officials said.
The U.S. military said its gunship had come under anti-aircraft fire from the area.
Survivors said most of the dead were attending a wedding in the town of Deh Rawood. They said the only gunfire from the area came from celebrants shooting their rifles into the air.
In February, officials in Afghanistan’s Helmand province said at least 17 civilians were killed when coalition aircraft bombed a mountain base believed to be sheltering Taliban fighters.
The U.S. military maintains that only one civilian was wounded in the incident.
About 11,500 American and allied troops are in Afghanistan pursuing remnants of the former Taliban regime and the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden, blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The Taliban have launched a series of attacks in recent weeks throughout Afghanistan, including several rocket attacks and ambushes in recent weeks near Shkin. U.S. military officials believe rebel groups are launching incursions into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Afghan authorities said Taliban remnants are reorganizing in an effort to destabilize the fledgling government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai.