CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: Civilians Abandon Homes after Hundreds Are Casualties of US Air Strikes on Villages
Parry, Richard Lloyd, The Independent (London, England)
THOUSANDS OF Afghans are abandoning their homes in the east of the country to escape United States air strikes on civilian villages that have killed hundreds of people.
For the fourth consecutive night, American warplanes targeting al- Qa'ida fighters in the White Mountains also bombed nearby villages, killing and injuring unknown numbers and forcing thousands to flee to the regional capital, Jalalabad.
Refugees arriving in the city reported explosions in the hamlets of Nadaf, Zaly Baba, Ghaly Khiel, Musa Khiel and Armat Khiel. All agreed that the villages were emptying as more and more families took to the road with their possessions.
"The bombs fell on Armat Khiel this morning," said Nawab, a farmer aged 35 who had just arrived in Jalalabad in a large green truck carrying 80 members of his community. "It was 500 yards from our village, and all the houses over there were damaged. We don't know how many people were killed, but I saw the bodies of people and animals on the ground. Why do the Americans drop bombs on us when their enemies are the Arabs in the mountains?"
The Pentagon insists that it is only targeting legitimate military targets associated with the al-Qa'ida network and remnants of the Taliban. But in two of the bombed villages, visited yesterday by The Independent, the local people denied that there were any Arabs in the area. There was no sign of any recent military activity, or of the concrete bunkers the Pentagon claimed to have destroyed.
A US military spokesman, Major Brad Lowell, said on Monday that the locations of the villages exactly matched the site of Taliban command and control concrete structures. "We are sure that these are military targets," he said. "They're unlike anything you'd find in an Afghan residential area. If Taliban or al Qa'ida leaders are taking family members of civilians into those areas, they're putting them at risk."
Asked about civilian casualties yesterday, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said: "It is next to impossible to get accurate information."
For the third time in three days, American aircraft dropped bombs on friendly mujahedin soldiers who are spearheading the ground attack on the al-Qa'ida bases in the White Mountains. …