Afghan villagers flee their homes, blame U.S. drones

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Village elders and the school’s principal, Sayed Habib, said coalition forces responded to the army’s request for help with drones, fighter jets and rockets.

The air assault, which residents say began about 3 a.m. and likely included drone strikes, flattened everything across a vast compound that includes the school. Mr. Habib said 13 insurgents were killed.

ISAF confirmed that airstrikes killed insurgents in the Budyali area on that day but would not say what type of airstrikes or provide any other details.

Mr. Habib and a local “malik,” or elder, Shah Mohammed Khan, said that in the days leading up to the airstrikes the sound of drones could be heard overhead.

“Everyone knows the sound of the unpiloted planes. Even our children know,” Mr. Habib said.

The elders were critical of the U.S. attack. They said they would have preferred that the Afghan soldiers try to negotiate with the Taliban to leave the school and surrender.

Mr. Habib and the village elders recalled the attack while sitting in the middle of the devastated school, where debris was still scattered across a vast yard. They pointed toward a blackboard, pockmarked with gaping holes.

“Shamefully they destroyed our school, our books, our library,” said Malik Gul Nawaz, an elder with a gray beard and a potbelly.

Mr. Habib said that in an attempt to rebuild the school, a contractor constructed a boundary wall before another Taliban attack. He fled with nearly $400,000 in foreign funds.

The roughly 1,300 students now take classes at a makeshift school made up of tents provided by UNICEF. Mr. Gul, who was taken to a U.S. military hospital at Bagram Air Base after the attack and treated for the bullet wound to his left shoulder, is now a watchman at the new school.

He held a small photograph of his dead colleague, Ahad, in his trembling left hand.

“We want to end this war,” Mr. Gul said. “Enough people have been killed now. We have to find unity.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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