- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan | Video of the aftermath of a disputed incident involving American forces and the Taliban shows bloodied bodies of children laid out with other corpses, confirming international Red Cross findings at the two remote villages in western Afghanistan.

The U.S. military does not contest that civilians died but called “extremely over-exaggerated” a report by an Afghan official that as many as 147 were killed.

Afghans blame aerial bombing Monday and Tuesday for the deaths and destruction. U.S. officials have suggested that Taliban fighters caused at least some of the deaths, and said investigators on a joint U.S.-Afghan team were still analyzing data collected in the villages of Ganjabad and Gerani in Farah province.

In a video obtained Friday by Associated Press Television News, villagers are seen wrapping the mangled bodies of some of the victims in blankets and cloths and lining them up on the dusty ground.

The man who shot the video said many of the bodies he filmed Tuesday in Gerani were in pieces. He spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from security agencies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also has said that women and children were among dozens of dead people its teams saw in the two villages.

On Thursday, a local official said he collected from residents the names of 147 people killed in the fighting. If true, it would be the deadliest case of civilian casualties in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime.

Villagers “were pointing to graves and saying, ‘This is my son, this is my daughter,’ ” said Abdul Basir Khan, a member of Farah’s provincial council. He said he gave his tally to the investigators.

The U.S. military described that toll as over the top.

“The investigators and the folks on the ground think that those numbers are extremely over-exaggerated,” U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said. “We are definitely nowhere near those estimates.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in Washington, called on the United States to halt air strikes in his country altogether to avoid civilian casualties.

“We demand an end to these operations … an end to air strikes,” Mr. Karzai told CNN in an interview.

In southern Afghanistan, meanwhile, four NATO soldiers and 21 civilians died in a string of insurgent attacks, and an unmanned U.S. drone crashed in central Ghazni province.

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