Report: Afghan guards' bullets hit most victims of bombing

Sunday, November 18, 2007

BAGHLANI-JADID, Afghanistan -- Up to two-thirds of the 77 people killed and 100 wounded in a suicide bombing last week were hit by bullets from visiting lawmakers' panicked bodyguards, who fired on a crowd of mostly schoolchildren for up to five minutes, a preliminary U.N. report says.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said only a "small number" of the victims were hit by gunfire, but an Afghan official in Baghlan province said bodyguards were "raining bullets" on the crowd.

The suicide bomb contained ball bearings, the Interior Ministry said, which may have caused wounds that look like bullet holes.

An Afghan doctor who treated patients after the Nov. 6 blast, meanwhile, said a high-ranking government official told him not to publicly reveal the number of gunfire victims, suggesting a possible government cover-up.

Separate teams of U.N. investigators have uncovered conflicting information about the number of people hit by gunfire and are trying to reconcile the differences, according to two Western officials who have seen the internal reports. The two spoke on condition they not be identified talking about preliminary findings.

But at least one of those reports says that up to two-thirds of the victims were hit by bullets fired into the crowd, one official said.

"A large number of people -- and quite probably a majority -- were killed and wounded as a result of gunfire after the blast," said the second official, a U.N. employee. The official said one internal report is highly critical of the bodyguards' reaction.

A government investigation is under way.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: