KABUL – According to Reuters and other news agencies, a U.S. plane bombed a village in a central Afghan province, July 1, killing at least 40 members of a wedding party and injuring many more.
U.S. military officials confirmed there had been civilian casualties.
The bombing happened at 1 a.m. Monday in a village in the rugged, mountainous region 105 miles northeast of the southern city of Kandahar, residents said.
An Afghan Defense Ministry official said celebrants were firing into the air, as is traditional in Pashtun weddings. Dr. Gulbuddin told Reuters: “More than 30 people were killed. It was a wedding ceremony and some of the participants were firing in the sky as part of the celebration. Americans have confessed that they made a mistake.”
Resident Abdul Saboor told the BBC: “We managed to transfer some of the wounded to Kandahar in the morning. Some of the foreigners’ choppers also came to help. There are no Taliban or Al Qaeda or Arabs here. These people were all civilians, women and children.” Photos of badly injured children, in party clothes, lying in hospital beds were released to the press.
In Kandahar, one survivor, Abdul Qayyum, told reporters at the Mir Wais Hospital that the Americans came to the area demanding to know “who fired on the helicopters.”
“I said ‘I don’t know’ and one of the soldiers wanted to tie my hands but someone said he is an old man and out of the respect they didn’t,” he said.
Hospital officials said a number of wounded were being brought to Kandahar. Most of the dead and injured were women and children, they said.
“We have many children who are injured and who have no family,” nurse Mohammed Nadir said. “Their families are gone. The villagers brought these children and they have no parents. Everyone says that their parents are dead.”
The U.S. bombing of Afghanistan started on Oct. 7, 2001, in retaliation to the Sept. 11 attacks. The Taliban government had extensive ties with the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. Bin Laden has not been caught.
In the aftermath, Pentagon officials moved to deny the attack saying they came under antiaircraft artillery fire and responded. One “response” was that a B-52 dropped seven 2,000-pound, satellite-guided bombs. The Pentagon said one of them went astray, but they did not know where it had landed.
This is not the first time Afghan civilians had been killed. In May, one news service reported that U.S. planes had pounded the village of Bul Khil in Khost province after mistaking traditional firing at a wedding for an attack. The U.S. army rejected that report.
Total civilian death toll from U.S. attacks have never been released by the Pentagon. CNN reported at least 3,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. U.S. Professor Marc Herold authored a report, based on international press reports, that over 3,500 civilians were killed between October and December 2001.
U.S. special forces killed 21 Afghans when they stormed buildings in Khas Uruzgan village on Jan. 23 looking for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. The Pentagon later acknowledged that none of those killed were Al Qaeda or Taliban.