Pentagon acknowledges civilians were killed in July 1 raid

Monday, July 8, 2002

AP Military WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- Afghan civilians were killed and injured by a U.S. airstrike last week, Pentagon officials acknowledged Monday, but the number of casualties is unclear.

"What we're focused on is finding out what happened and what went wrong that led to the deaths and injuries of civilians," Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said at a Pentagon news conference.

U.S., coalition and Afghan forces had been watching the villages involved on and off since February, but did not know that a large group of civilians were gathered to celebrate a wedding, said Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It is termed an accident for the reason we struck people we did not intend to," Newbold said.

Afghan officials say more than 40 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured in the July 1 strikes by a U.S. AC-130 gunship on suspected anti-aircraft guns in central Afghanistan's Uruzgan province.

The interim Afghan government headed by Hamid Karzai has criticized the raid and demanded that the United States change its procedures to prevent such mistakes in the future.

A preliminary investigation by a joint U.S.-Afghan team did not find evidence of the large number of casualties cited by Afghan officials, Clarke said. A panel including an Afghan representative and headed by a U.S. Air Force general will begin a full investigation within two days, Clarke said.

"The issue of the number of civilian casualties and civilians killed is much less clear," Clarke said. "We know they occurred and we regret every one of them but we do not have any hard and fast numbers."

Clarke and Newbold said spotters on the ground and U.S. aircraft definitely saw anti-aircraft fire coming from the villages that were attacked, although investigators did not find any anti-aircraft weapons.

"I don't think there is any question that our aircraft and our forces on the ground were fired at," Newbold said.

The United States has no plans to pay compensation to victims of the raid, Clarke said. Discussions on the general issue of compensation for civilian victims are happening between U.S. government agencies, Clarke said.

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