Investigators interviewing U.S. troops in air raid that killed

Thursday, July 18, 2002

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Investigators looking into a U.S. air raid that killed Afghan civilians arrived in Uzbekistan on Wednesday to interview U.S. troops involved in the operation, a U.S. military official said.

Spokesman Col. Roger King said the team had arrived at Khanabad air base but wouldn't give more information.

Afghan officials say 48 Afghan civilians were killed and 117 others were injured July 1 when a U.S. AC-130 gunship fired on several villages in Uruzgan province. Among the dead were 25 people at a wedding celebration, Afghans said.

U.S. officials say the attack was launched after forces reported coming under anti-aircraft fire from sites in the villages. U.S. officials have said civilians were killed but have not accepted Afghan figures pending completion of the investigation.

Weapons discovered

In Uruzgan, special forces were led to a weapons cache late Monday by Afghan soldiers.

The cache, discovered in the provincial capital Tarin Kot, contained several thousand rounds of small arms and machine gun ammunition, King said.

A rocket-propelled grenade and grenade launcher, rifle and a mortar were also found, King said.

Near the southeastern town of Khost, special forces on Tuesday discovered a cave that contained a Soviet-made armored personnel carrier in "good condition," King said. Coalition forces are searching the area for more weapons or suspects, he said.

Four U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, were injured Monday by prop wash from a helicopter as it tried to land during a special forces operation in southeastern Afghanistan, King said.

Two soldiers suffered head injuries, one broke a wrist and one cut his hand when a CH-47 Chinook tried to land in Asadabad in Kunar province along the Pakistani border north of Jalalabad.

U.S. officials confirmed this month that special forces were operating in the area, where Afghans say a number of al-Qaida and Taliban members were believed to have taken refuge.

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