Fisnik Abrashi,Jason Straziuso / Associated Press – 2008-08-30 00:32:28
KABUL, Afghanistan (August 29, 2008) — Afghan officials said Thursday that a deadly U.S.-led special forces raid on a remote western village last week was based on misleading information provided by a rival clan.
It was the latest twist in a tangled debate over what happened. U.N. officials say the raid killed up to 90 civilians, most of them children. A NATO official said U.S. and Afghan troops were fired on first, touching off a battle of several hours that killed 25 militants and five civilians.
The U.S. government is pressing for a joint U.S.-Afghan probe in hopes of reaching a common conclusion. Two Pentagon officials said Thursday a U.S. review concluded civilian deaths were far fewer than claimed by others. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not been made public, said the findings were given to Afghan leaders.
Evidence from all sides has been scant, with no conclusive photos or video emerging to shed light on what happened in Azizabad on Aug. 22. But the claim of high civilian casualties, also made by Afghan officials, is causing new friction between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers.
Karzai has castigated Western commanders over civilian deaths from military operations, saying they create anger among Afghans that the Taliban and other insurgents use as leverage to turn Afghans away from the government.
Claims of civilian deaths can be tricky, however. Relatives of Afghan victims are given condolence payments by Karzai’s government and U.S. military, providing an incentive to make false claims.
Three Afghan officials said Thursday that U.S. commanders were misled into striking Azizabad, a village in Shindand district of Herat province.
They said U.S. special forces troops and Afghan commandos raided the village while hundreds of people were gathered in a large compound for a memorial service honoring a tribal leader, Timor Shah, who was killed eight months ago by a rival clan.
The officials said the raid was aimed at militants supposed to be in the village, but they said the operation was based on faulty information provided by Shah’s rival, who they identified as Nader Tawakal. Attempts to locate Tawakal failed.
Afghans targeted in U.S. raids have complained for years of being pursued based solely on information given by other Afghans who sometimes are business rivals, neighbors with a vendetta or simply interested in generic reward money for anti-government militants.
A top NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the results of the U.S. investigation have not been released, said the U.S. and Afghan troops were fired on first when they moved into the village before dawn.
The U.S. and Afghan troops stayed in the village until 8 a.m. and counted 30 dead – 25 militants and five civilians, the NATO official said. Reports filed by North, a former Marine who played a key role in the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra affair, also said the first shots fired in the clash came from the village.
© 2008 Hearst Corp.
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