U.S. Confirms Some Afghan Civilian Deaths

By Associated Press

Los Angeles Times

July 4, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. airstrike last week killed 17 Afghan villagers, including women and children, a provincial governor said Monday. The U.S. military confirmed some civilians were killed in the attack on what it called a known terrorist compound.

The bombing occurred in Kunar province last Friday, three days after an elite U.S. military team disappeared in the mountainous area.

"Seventeen civilians were killed during the bombing, including women and children," Kunar Gov. Asadullah Wafa told The Associated Press after leaving a mosque in the capital, Kabul. He did not say whether any militants also were believed to be in the compound.

The U.S. military confirmed civilians were killed but didn't say how many.

The attack was "with precision-guided munitions that resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of enemy terrorists and noncombatants," the military said in a statement.

"The targeted compound was a known operating base for terrorist attacks in Kunar province as well as a base for a medium-level terrorist leader," it said. "Battle damage assessment is currently ongoing."

The statement added that U.S. forces "regret the loss of innocent lives and follow stringent rules of engagement specifically to ensure that noncombatants are safeguarded. However, when enemy forces move their families into the locations where they conduct terrorist operations, they put these innocent civilians at risk."

Hundreds of Afghan and U.S. forces are in Kunar, searching for members of the missing military team and hunting militants in the area. One member of the team has been rescued and was being evaluated on Monday, a U.S. Defense Department official said.

He declined to say when the rescue occurred or provide other details, including a reaction to reports that the team consisted of several U.S. Navy Seals.

U.S. officials at the time said the target was an "enemy compound" that "we deemed we had to hit immediately."