Afghan villagers say air strike kills 9 civilians

Author: By Noor Khan, Associated Press Writer

The incident illustrates the confusion and blame that regularly result from
night raids and air strikes in Afghanistan and threaten US-led efforts to
curb the Taliban.

In Kabul, the head of the UN mission warned that Afghanistan cannot count on
international support indefinitely unless the government tackles corruption
and bad governance.

Residents of Korkhashien village drove the bodies to the governor’s office in
the nearby provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, and AP footage and photos
showed at least two children among the dead.

Helmand provincial spokesman Daoud Ahmadi confirmed an air strike in
Korkhashien, but said eight Taliban militants were killed while hiding out
in a compound.

Sgt. Angela Eggman, a US spokeswoman for NATO forces, said she was aware of an
incident in the area and it was being investigated.

Villager Abdul Rashin said the people were killed while harvesting corn in
their fields.

The convoy of vans and station wagons from Korkhashien drove from the
governor’s office to a central market, where the villagers shouted blame at
both President Hamid Karzai and his international allies.

“Death to Karzai! Death to the foreigners!” they yelled as passers-by looked
through the car windows at the blanket-covered corpses. The villagers had
propped open the rear doors of the cars to show off the bodies, and young
boy on a bicycle stopped to peer in.

Though NATO forces have retooled their mission to focus on protecting the
population ? and have been issued new rules for air strikes aimed at
reducing civilian casualties ? it is often difficult to distinguish
militants from civilians in areas where the Taliban live among the people
and often grew up in the villages they hide out in.

In eastern Khost province, several hundred people demonstrated today against
an overnight raid that killed a resident of Baramkhil village. Walishah
Hamat, head of the Mandozayi district government, said the dead man was
innocent.

NATO forces said the man was a militant who was killed when Afghan and
international forces were pursuing an insurgent leader who had been
recruiting foreign fighters to the area.

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