Alex Constantine - September 14, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan | An American bombing that killed up to 90 Afghan civilians last month was based on false information that was provided by a rival tribe. And the bombing did not kill a single Taliban fighter, the president’s spokesman said Sunday.
The claim contradicted a U.S. contention that the Aug. 22 raid on the western village of Azizabad killed up to 35 Taliban fighters.
“There was total misinformation fed to the coalition forces,” Humayun Hamidzada, the spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, told The Associated Press.
Afghan police arrested three suspects accused of giving the U.S. military false intelligence that led to the bombardment, the Interior Ministry has said.
An Afghan government commission found that up to 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, a finding backed by a preliminary U.N. report.
The operation, conducted by U.S. Special Forces and Afghan soldiers, targeted Afghan employees of a British security firm and their family members — the reason the U.S. military recovered weapons after the battle, Hamidzada said.
The U.S. has said its forces were fired on first during a raid that targeted and killed a known militant commander named Mullah Sidiq. But villagers say their homes were targeted because of false information provided by a rival tribesman named Nader Tawakil.
An Afghan parliamentarian has said Tawakil is in the protective custody of U.S. forces. The coalition has declined to comment.
The U.S. at first said that 30 militants and no civilians were killed. A formal military investigation found that the operation killed up to 35 militants and seven civilians.
But after video images showing at least 10 dead children and up to 40 other dead villagers surfaced last week, the U.S. said it would send a one-star general to investigate the strike.