Probe into 'emotional' U.S. attack


Mar 5, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The U.S. military is investigating two incidents involving its forces in Afghanistan that may have unintentionally led to the deaths of several civilians.

Afghan officials, quoted by wires services, said a Sunday night airstrike in the town of Nijrab, north of Kabul, killed a family of nine, including several young children.

A coalition spokesman told CNN the airstrike, carried out by U.S. forces, targeted insurgents who fired rockets on a U.S. military base in Nijrab, located in Kapisa province.

According to the spokesman, U.S. soldiers observed armed combatants -- believed to have fired on the military base -- take cover in a compound and called in an airstrike on the building, the spokesman said.

The U.S. military dropped two 1,000-pound bombs on the building, killing nine people, he said.

An investigation into the incident is under way, the spokesman said. It was not immediately clear if the nine killed were insurgents or civilians, he said.

The U.S. military is also investigating another incident on Sunday in which U.S. forces fired on people after a suicide car bombing attack on its forces near the southeastern city of Jalalabad.

Eight Afghan civilians were killed and 35 were wounded in the attack, but it was not clear if the casualties were caused by the initial explosion, by Taliban gunfire or return fire from troops in the convoy.

No U.S. forces were seriously wounded in the incident.

Zmarai Bashiri, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, said, "The American forces became emotional (after the car bombing) and opened fire on Afghans in the area because they feared another bomb attack."

But U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. David Accetta told CNN said it was "premature" to blame American troops for the deaths.

Accetta said the convoy's attackers "must have a blatant disregard for human life to have attacked coalition forces in a populated area."

The incident sparked protests in the streets of Jalalabad. Many of the demonstrators called on American troops in Afghanistan to go home.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai telephoned elders and family members of the victims, expressing his sympathies, according to a statement released Monday from his office.

On Sunday, Karzai ordered an investigation into the incident and sent investigators to Nangarhar Province, where Jalalabad is located, the statement said.

More than 45,000 U.S. and NATO troops are battling a resurgent Taliban and its allies in the al Qaeda terrorist network across a wide swath of southern Afghanistan, more than five years after al Qaeda's Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

In a recent interview, Mullah Dadullah, the man in charge of day-to-day military operations for the Taliban, said his forces are poised for a spring offensive against NATO-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban commander promised to get revenge against the Americans, and claimed to maintain regular line of communication with wanted al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.