US Bombs Wipe Out Farming Village

AP, December 3, 2001
By CHRIS TOMLINSON, Associated Press Writer

a woman victim of Taliban and the US strikes

An Afghan man lifts the head of a child who along with 11 other civilians died during US air raids in Kabul on October 28, 2001, witnesses said a man and his seven children were killed when a bomb crashed through their home. (AP photo)
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KAMA ADO, Afghanistan- Children's shoes, bits of charred carpet and cooking pots litter what is left of this hamlet, along with dead cows and sheep. Here and there are craters, some 20 feet wide. One holds the tail fin from a Mk83 1,000-pound bomb.

The United States says it is targeting Osama bin Laden's followers around this village in northeastern Afghanistan. But anti-Taliban leaders say local villagers, not terrorists, are dying in the raids because Americans are using faulty intelligence.

On Monday provincial officials brought reporters to see what they said was the destruction done by U.S. bombs at Kama Ado, about a half-hour walk along a trail from the nearest town.

Witnesses and survivors say U.S. warplanes dropped more than 25 bombs in four passes over the village on Saturday. One resident, Kamal Huddin, said 155 of the 300 residents were killed.

"We were farmers. We were poor people. And we didn't have any contact with any organizations,'' Huddin said. His dust-covered face was streaked with tears as he dug out his few remaining possessions - a few clothes and a wooden plow.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem told reporters he had seen no evidence to support reports of U.S. bombs striking civilian villages in the area.

"We have heard anecdotal reports that this is an area where Osama bin Laden has been using some of his wealth to buy local village chieftains' support,'' Stufflebeem said.

Mohammed Zeman, the provincial anti-Taliban defense chief, says up to 1,200 non-Afghan fighters may be hiding in the White Mountains, specifically in cave complexes near Tora Bora and Mawal, more than six miles from Kama Ado.

But Zeman insisted that his men control the Kama Ado area, that the village elders have pledged their support in fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida.

He also said anti-Taliban fighters have been among the bombing victims and showed reporters the bodies of seven of his men.

"These are my villagers. I sent them the day before yesterday to provide security in the town, and now they are dead,'' Zeman said. He said he had asked U.S. authorities to stop the attacks, but had received no response.

If bin Laden money was funneled to Kama Ado, there was little to show for it in what's left of the village of about 30 simple mud homes with straw roofs.

Unlike other Taliban and al-Qaida bases, there were no documents, no heavy weapons, no ammunition boxes, just three rocket-propelled grenades in one of the homes. Such weapons are common in Afghanistan and every village has a few to protect it in the absence of a police force.

Residents, who had spent their entire lives farming terraced fields irrigated with melting snow from the White Mountains, claimed fighters from the Taliban and al-Qaida had never even visited them.

Huddin said he and men from neighboring villages dug 44 graves Sunday, each marked with timber scavenged from the wreckage.

"We put as many as four to five bodies in each grave. But most of it was just pieces of bodies. We filled the graves up with those pieces,'' Huddin said.

Coalition spokesman Kenton Keith said military pilots who dropped bombs in the area ``think they hit their targets,'' but added coalition officials were checking the reports of civilians killed.

"We do have an overriding imperative ... and that is to root out international terrorism,'' he said Monday in Islamabad, Pakistan. ``We do not deliberately target civilians ... and al-Qaida did deliberately target civilians on Sept. 11.''

Zeman said bombing late Sunday in the nearby village of Agom killed seven anti-Taliban fighters and five civilians.

The attack followed another on the same village earlier Sunday that destroyed an anti-Taliban headquarters and killed eight people, Zeman said. Dozens of people have been treated at a hospital in Jalalabad.

The coalition launched attacks on the Taliban on Oct. 7 after they refused to turn over bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks in the United States. Zeman and Ali both say they support U.S. airstrikes, but only in the mountains.

Men and boys near Kama Ado watched Monday morning as an American B-52 bomber streaked across the sky and plumes of black smoke rose from the White Mountains. Malik Nazeer, a tribal elder, said that was where the bombs should fall, not on his people's villages.

Nazeer said he understood the fight against terrorism, but said his people were now suffering for no other reason than that they live in Afghanistan.

"We were unhappy about the people who were killed on Sept. 11. They were killed by terrorists. But now we are dying,'' Nazeer said. ``Why don't Americans recognize that?''

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