- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

KARAM, Afghanistan Waving shovels and sticks, enraged villagers surged toward foreign journalists brought here yesterday by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia to see what officials say was the devastation caused by a U.S. air attack.
"They are coming to kill us. They are coming for information, to tell the planes where to bomb," angry and terrified villagers shouted as they charged toward the reporters. Taliban escorts held them back.
The trip to the village of Karam in Afghanistan's eastern mountains marked the first time since the U.S.-led air campaign began Oct. 7 that the Taliban has allowed international journalists into areas controlled by the militia.
The Taliban, which escorted journalists to the village, claims nearly 200 people were killed here Thursday. If true, it would be the deadliest single strike by U.S. and British warplanes.
"They are innocent people living here," said one villager, Gul Mohammed. "There is no military base. What is it they are looking for in Afghanistan? Where is Osama bin Laden? He is not here. Why did they bomb us?"
The small village clearly had been hit by explosions. A number of houses were damaged or reduced to rubble, and several bomb craters were dug into the rocky landscape. Dozens of sheep and goat carcasses were strewn about.
The air was thick with a rancid smell .
But it was difficult to assess claims of casualty figures three days after the attack. Muslims traditionally bury their dead quickly. Villagers pointed out what they called traces of the attack's deadliness, including a bloodstained pillowcase and what appeared to be a rotting human limb.
Washington has expressed regret for any civilian casualties from its air strikes, saying it doesn't target noncombatants.
It has acknowledged a stray bomb hit homes outside Kabul last week but has said it can't verify an attack on Karam.
In the hospital in Jalalabad, 25 miles to the east, doctors treated what they said were 23 victims of bombing at Karam one of them a child barely 2 months old, swathed in bloody bandages.
A father, Ahmanzai, lay in one bed hugging his wailing 11/2-year-old son, Azizullah both of them bandaged against burns and wounds from what villagers said was a second bombing run in Karam on Saturday.
At least 18 fresh graves were scattered about the village, marked with jagged pieces of gray slate. Two were tiny freshly dug for what residents said were children. Villagers said more bodies were buried in the mountains, taken there by residents as they fled the now mostly deserted community.
An old man knelt by one grave in the village, sobbing. He looked up furiously at the journalists and their cameras and lobbed stones to drive them away.
The Taliban insists there are no military bases near Karam. However, it is believed that Osama bin Laden, the prime target of the U.S. strikes, operated terrorist training camps here in the Nangarhar province.
It was not clear whether any of the camps are in the Karam area or whether they were the intended targets of the air attack.

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