US Probes Deaths in Taliban Raid
Saturday 24 January 2009
by: Jason Straziuso and Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press
"We know the people who were killed were shooting at us," said Col. Greg Julian, the top
But Sayed Ahmad Safi, the spokesman for Laghman's governor, said that government intelligence reports indicated 11 of the dead were civilians, including three children and two females. Two of the dead were militants, he said.
Abdul Khaliq Hussaini, a member of parliament who represents Laghman, said he believed 16 people had been killed, including 11 civilians. The site of the raid - the
Julian said a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation had been launched.
Civilian deaths are a hugely sensitive topic between the Afghan government and the
President Hamid Karzai last week told parliament that the
The issue also sparks strong emotions among average Afghans and threatens to turn civilians against the international military mission.
"I'm ready to start jihad against the Americans," an unidentified Afghan man told a
Earlier Saturday, Hamididan Abdul Rahmzai, the head of the provincial council in Laghman, said village elders arrived at his office hours after the early morning operation to complain that the 15 killed were innocent civilians.
During a call from an Associated Press reporter, Rahmzai relayed questions to the village elders directly, who angrily shouted that they would swear on the Quran, the Muslim holy book, that all those killed were civilians. The elders claimed that women and children were among the dead.
The villagers told Rahmzai that they are shepherds and have no ties to militants.
Evaluating competing claims from the
Afghan villagers have been known to exaggerate civilian death claims in order to receive more compensation from the U.S. military, and officials have said that insurgents sometimes force villagers to make false death claims.
After a battle in August in the
The Afghan government recently sent NATO headquarters a draft agreement that would give
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