Video: U.S. airstrikes blamed for more Afghan civilian deaths

msnbc.com news services
updated 9/8/2008 7:44:53 PM ET 2008-09-08T23:44:53

The bodies of several children lay dead in two videos that surfaced Monday showing the aftermath of a U.S.-led operation the Afghan government and United Nations say killed 90 civilians.

The video, apparently taken by a cell phone, is grainy and details such as a precise body count were difficult to make out. A second video shows gruesome detail of children severely disfigured.

The two videos, both obtained Monday 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 raid in the village of Azizabad.

A U.S. investigation found that only seven civilians died. But the United States on Sunday said it would reopen the investigation because of emerging new evidence.

"In light of emerging evidence pertaining to civilian casualties in the Aug. 22 counter-insurgency operation in the Shindand District, Herat province, I feel it is prudent to request that U.S. Central Command send a general officer to review the U.S. investigation and its findings with respect to this new evidence," Gen. David McKiernan, senior U.S. officer in Afghanistan said.

"The people of Afghanistan have our commitment to get to the truth," McKiernan said.

Dozens reported killed
On Sunday, The New York Times, which first reported the existance of the cellphone videos, said its reporter had seen images shot by a villager of at least 11 dead children, some apparently with blast and concussion injuries. Ten days after the airstrikes, villagers dug up the last victim from the rubble, a baby just a few months old, it said.

An Afghan doctor who runs a clinic in a nearby village told the newspaper he counted 50 to 60 bodies of civilians, most of them women and children and some of them his own patients, laid out in the village mosque on the day of the strike.

The U.S. military said earlier its investigation found that 30 to 35 Taliban militants were killed, including a commander, in the U.S.-led coalition air strike.

It said its findings were based on video taken during the operation and topographic photo comparisons of the area before and after the strikes, including analysis of burial sites in the area.

Reports from local clinics and hospitals were also examined, the military said.

More than 500 civilians have been killed during operations by foreign and Afghan forces against the militants so far this year, according to the Afghan government and some aid groups, fueling public anger and driving a wedge between the government and its Western backers.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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