Bodies of civilians killed in an airstrike are seen on the back of a truck in the city of Kandahar August 5, 2009.
August 5, 2009
Outraged southern Afghan villagers said today that a pre-dawn airstrike killed three children and a man in the latest case of civilian deaths at the hands of Western troops.
The U.S. military said it had killed four insurgents on motorcycles in that area and could not confirm any civilian fatalities.
Residents of Kowuk were seen bringing the bodies of three boys and a man to the guesthouse of the Kandahar governor from their village, 12 miles north of the provincial capital, Kandahar city.
Afghan men transport the bodies of four civilians killed in an airstrike
The angry villagers shouted 'Death to America! Death to infidels!' as they displayed the corpses in the back of a pickup truck.
The issue of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign troops has caused deep resentment among Afghan people.
President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called on foreign troops to halt airstrikes and raids in Afghan villages.
Soon after assuming command of NATO and U.S. forces last month, Gen. Stanley McChrystal ordered troops to limit the use of airstrikes to prevent civilian casualties.
Abdur Rahim, the father of the boys and uncle of the slain man, claimed he heard a pair of helicopters circling over his compound at 1:30 a.m. before they fired two missiles that hit his home. His brother and another son were wounded, he said.
'What was the fault of my innocent children? They were not Taliban,' Rahim said. "Did they come here to build our country or kill our innocent children?'
A U.S. military spokeswoman said a helicopter had fired on four insurgents carrying jugs on motorcycles through a field away from a populated area of the local district, Arghandab.
'The helicopter engaged the militants with guns and rockets, however the explosions heard by locals were caused by the jugs the insurgents were carrying exploding,' said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias. Commanders on the ground were checking into reports of civilian deaths, she said.
In eastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed two tribal elders and four armed guards Wednesday, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the spokesman for Nangarhar province.
The incident happened in the Pachir Agha district of the province as the six were going to a meeting to discuss road security.
Taliban militants regularly use roadside bombs in their attacks against Afghan and foreign troops.
Wife of Pakistani Taliban leader killed
Pakistani officials said Wednesday that a U.S. missile strike in northwestern Pakistan had killed a wife of top Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
Mehsud's associates would not confirm the report, although they did say a woman was killed in the missile strike in South Waziristan, part of the lawless tribal region along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and where Taliban and al-Qaida leaders are believed to be hiding.
Villagers look at a house belonging to supporters of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud which was destroyed by authorities in Dera Ismail Khan
Two intelligence officials and one army official, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the strike had destroyed the home of Mehsud's father-in-law, Akramud Din, and that two people had been killed, including one of Mehsud's two wives.
Under Islam, men are allowed to have up to four wives.
One of the intelligence officials said agents were trying to get details about the second person who died.
The U.S. Embassy had no comment. Washington generally does not acknowledge being responsible for such strikes.
One of Mehsud's associates said Mehsud was not in the house at the time.
Mehsud is the head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban militant group, and he has been suspected in the past of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad in December 2007. He has denied being responsible.
He is also accused of organizing dozens of other suicide attacks in Pakistan.
If confirmed, the death of Mehsud's wife indicates authorities are closing in on the notorious Pakistani Taliban leader.
'I think they seem to have good intelligence; there is no doubt about it,' said political analyst and retired Pakistani army Lt. Gen. Talat Masood.
'They are closing in, and they are keeping the pressure on these people.'
Pakistan's air force and the military have carried out several attacks targeting Mehsud, and the army has said it is preparing for a major offensive against Mehsud and his network in the tribal region.
But the offensive has not come, despite it being announced weeks ago.
Masood said it was likely the military wanted to concentrate on clearing up militants still active in and around the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan despite a three-month offensive there against the Taliban.
'At the moment, I don't think it has any desire or intention of launching a full-fledged attack in South Waziristan. I feel they are wanting to contain them instead of having a full-fledged attack,' Masood said.
Wednesday morning's attack is the latest in a series of suspected U.S. missile strikes in recent weeks targeting Mehsud.
Pakistani and U.S. officials say the missiles have killed several al-Qaida operatives in the North and South Waziristan tribal regions where Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 troops to flush out militants and their local supporters.
Pakistan has publicly opposed such attacks, saying they were counterproductive and were angering local residents. Islamabad has asked Washington to provide it with access to the latest technology to it so that Pakistan's own military could carry out such attacks.
Separately, the military said Wednesday it had killed eight militants and arrested another 14 in operations in Swat and nearby areas during the previous 24 hours.