- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) President Bush yesterday expressed condolences to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the deaths of civilians killed in a U.S. bombing, but the incident continued to rouse anger in Afghanistan.

The governor of the province where a U.S. air strike reportedly killed scores of people warned yesterday that Afghans will rise up against Americans if U.S. troops continue to kill civilians in the hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives.

"If Americans don't stop killing civilians, there will be jihad [holy war] against them in my province," Jan Mohammed Khan, governor of Uruzgan province, said in an interview.

Mr. Khan's province includes the village of Kakarak, where Afghans said 25 members of a family celebrating an impending marriage were killed in a U.S. air attack Monday.

In all, 44 Afghans were killed and 120 injured in raids on Kakarak and four other villages, Afghan officials said. U.S. officials say an anti-aircraft gun had fired on U.S. planes from the compound where the partygoers died.

Mr. Bush telephoned Mr. Karzai yesterday to express sympathy for the victims' families, White House spokesman Claire Buchan said.

"Certainly, the president expressed to President Karzai that this was a tragic loss," Miss Buchan said. Kabul Radio said Mr. Bush also emphasized his commitment to a full investigation and assured Mr. Karzai that such an incident will not happen again.

The attack has clearly strained relations between Afghans and the U.S. military, which is still pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda forces nearly eight months after the hard-line Islamic militia abandoned Kabul.

The wedding party was for a family close to Mr. Karzai who supported his battle against the Taliban last year.

In January, U.S. special forces attacked a school in the Uruzgan village of Khas, where they thought Taliban or al Qaeda leaders were sheltered. Those inside turned out to be government troops on a weapons-collection mission, and 21 of them were killed.

Similar mistakes have occurred in Kandahar, Paktia and other southern areas.

A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation team visited the scene of the latest raid this week and is expected to report to Mr. Karzai.

U.S. and Afghan investigators have drawn widely differing conclusions from preliminary examinations. American investigators suggested that the amount of blood found was inconsistent with the number of deaths reported.

Afghan investigators are convinced of the casualty figures. Some have suggested U.S. forces may have been given erroneous information by Afghans working for them. Mr. Khan suggested those Afghans be handed over to Afghan authorities.

"Such spies give a bad name to the Americans," Mr. Khan said.

Meanwhile, in a search mission that ended Thursday, Canadian-led coalition forces discovered a stash of anti-aircraft missiles in a cave complex in southeastern Afghanistan this week.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Roger King said the cave complex found south of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, contained numerous Soviet-style SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles and three British Blowpipe missiles.

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