Rumsfeld - Afghans killed by U.S. weren't terrorists

WASHINGTON -- The 14 or more Afghans killed by U.S. Army forces in a Jan. 23 commando raid were neither al-Qaida terrorists nor their Taliban supporters as first believed, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday.

Providing the initial results of a military review of the raid on two compounds at Khas Uruzgan, Rumsfeld defended the U.S. forces, arguing the Americans took aim only after being fired upon.

"Clearly, in retrospect, that's unfortunate," Rumsfeld said of the deaths. "On the other hand, one cannot fault the people who fired back in self-defense."

The commander of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Gen. Tommy Franks, ordered an investigation into the raid after the new Afghan government said some of those killed and captured were not enemy fighters but officials loyal to interim leader Hamid Karzai.

An unclassified executive summary of that investigation's results said 16 Afghans were killed in the raid. Rumsfeld had put the number at 14.

Several weeks ago, the Pentagon acknowledged that 27 people had been wrongly captured in the raid.