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Archive for Monday, October 29, 2001

Misdirected air strikes kill more Afghan civilians

October 29, 2001

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— American airstrikes meant to punish the Taliban spilled over Sunday into residential neighborhoods of the Afghan capital, killing 13 civilians, witnesses said. It was the second time in as many days that missiles have accidentally hit homes and killed residents.

Later Sunday, U.S. jets were back over the skies of the beleaguered Afghan capital, and strong explosions could be heard in the direction of the main road from Kabul to the opposition-controlled Bagram air base.

Weeping families buried their dead hours after the morning bombardment, apparently aimed at Taliban targets to the north and east of Kabul. "I have lost all my family. I am finished," said a sobbing woman in the Qali Hotair neighborhood on Kabul's northern edge.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesmen had no immediate comment on the latest strikes and civilian casualties involved. It has stressed repeatedly that civilians are never deliberately targeted.

Three weeks after the U.S.-led air assault against Afghanistan began, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed confidence the allies would prevail. However, his foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the war could drag on "indefinitely" and that the coalition was considering a pause during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins around Nov. 17.

When asked about a pause in bombing for Ramadan, Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner pointed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comment earlier in the day that "the northern alliance and the Taliban fought through Ramadan year after year."

"There was a Middle East war during Ramadan. There is nothing in that religion that suggests that conflicts have to stop during Ramadan," Rumsfeld said on CNN's "Late Edition."

In Sunday morning's airstrikes, witnesses said 10 people were killed in the Qali Hotair area. An Associated Press reporter saw six bodies, four of them children.

A wailing father hugged the dead body of his son, who looked barely 2. Bereaved women slapped themselves with grief.

Three other people died near an eastern housing complex called Macroyan, witnesses said.

In Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, a semiconscious 13-year-old named Jawad did not yet know that all eight other people in his family had been killed.

"He asked me, 'How is my family?"' said a neighbor, Mohammed Razi, ushering a journalist out of the boy's hospital room. "I said, 'They are all OK. You were walking in your sleep, and you fell down the well by your house, and I rescued you."'

In the Pakistani frontier city of Peshawar, another memorial for the dead took place Sunday but without the corpse.

The Taliban refused to return the body of Afghan opposition figure Abdul Haq, executed Friday after he crossed over into Afghanistan in hopes of drumming up support for the anti-Taliban cause. The Taliban said they had buried Haq in his home village in Afghanistan.

The strikes that hit Kabul came only 12 hours after stray bombs landed Saturday evening behind the rebel military alliance's battle lines north of the capital. Areas behind Taliban lines were also reported hit.

Eight or nine civilians were killed most of them in alliance-held areas, according to witnesses.

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