Video shows dead children after raid

September 8, 2008 8:06:39 AM PDT
Two videos that appear to show the bodies of at least 10 children and many more adults covered in blankets and white shrouds lend weight to Afghan and U.N. allegations that a U.S.-led raid killed scores of civilians last month.One video, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday and apparently taken by a cell phone, is grainy and details such as a precise body count are difficult to make out. But it appears that several dozen bodies, all covered by blankets, are lined up one next to another in a mosque.

Wailing Afghan women and men occasionally lift the blankets to show dead children or the disfigured faces of men.

A second video shows three young children wrapped in white shrouds. A fourth child has gruesome head wounds. In total, the bodies of at least 10 children can be seen.

The two videos, both obtained by The Associated Press, give weight to Afghan and U.N. findings that scores of civilians, including 60 children and 15 women, died in the Aug. 22 U.S.-led raid in the village of Azizabad. U.S. special forces and Afghan commandos carried out the operation.

A U.S. investigation found that only seven civilians died, as well as up to 35 militants, but the U.S. on Sunday said it would reopen the investigation because of emerging new evidence, an apparent reference to the videos, which have been in the possession of Afghan intelligence and the U.N. but have leaked to media outlets.

The new evidence that prompted the review is "some imagery evidence" that came to the attention of Gen. David D. McKiernan, who is the commander of the NATO-led force here, over the weekend, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday.

He declined to say whether it was the cell phone video or something else.

"There is some evidence that suggests that the evidence that the U.S. military used in ... its investigation may not have been complete," Whitman said.

He said the general to be sent to Afghanistan by Central Command will review the initial investigation and how it was done.

But it is also possible that there will be a new investigation of the raid in Azizabad itself - this time by Central Command - said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for the command in Tampa., Fla.

The grainy cell phone video, shot by an unnamed Afghan aid official and handed over to the United Nations mission in Kabul, shows two long rows of people apparently killed during the raid, laid on the mosque floor before burial.

As Afghan women and a young boy sob over some of the bodies, bearded and turbaned men walk around, lifting some of the scarfs and blankets covering the dead.

At least eight children can be identified in the two videos. Two of them look as though they are asleep. One child has half of a skull blown off.

It was impossible to verify conclusively that the videos showed the aftermath of the Azizabad attack, but the contents of the video matched claims by Afghan and U.N. officials that the videos showed the U.S. operation killed far more civilians than the military has admitted to.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has for years now warned the U.S. and NATO that it must stop killing civilians in its bombing runs, saying such deaths undermine his government and the international mission. But the Azizabad incident could finally push Karzai to take action.

Shortly after the Azizabad attack, he ordered a review of whether the U.S. and NATO should be allowed to use airstrikes or carry out raids in villages. He also called for an updated "status of force" agreement between the Afghan government and foreign militaries. That review has not yet been completed.

Nek Mohammad Ishaq, a provincial council member in Herat and a member of the Afghan investigating commission, has said photographs and video taken of the victims are with Afghanistan's secretive intelligence service.

Afghan officials say U.S. special forces 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, Nader Tawakal.

The U.S. investigative report released Tuesday said American and Afghan forces took fire from militants while approaching Azizabad and that "justified use of well-aimed small-arms fire and close air support to defend the combined force."

The report said investigators discovered evidence that the militants planned to attack a nearby coalition base. Evidence collected included weapons, explosives, intelligence materials and an access badge to the base, as well as photographs from inside and outside the base.

But Afghan officials say Reza and other members of his family provided security and reconstruction work for the nearby U.S. base, and were not Taliban.


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