- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

JABAR, Afghanistan — A coalition air strike destroyed a mud-brick home after a rocket attack on a U.S. base, killing nine persons from four generations of an Afghan family including a 6-month-old, officials and relatives said yesterday.

It was the third report in two days of U.S. forces killing civilians. The air strike occurred late Sunday in Kapisa province north of the capital, some 12 hours after U.S. Marines reportedly opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians after a suicide bombing in eastern Nangahar province.

In the other incident, an American convoy in the southern city of Kandahar — where suicide attacks have become commonplace over the past year — opened fire yesterday on a vehicle that drove too close, killing the driver, said Noor Ahmad, a Kandahar police officer who said he witnessed the shooting. A NATO spokesman said he did not have any information.

Up to 10 Afghans died in the aftermath of the Nangahar suicide attack, which wounded a U.S. Marine. President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing, “which caused the American forces to fire on civilians,” and a statement said relatives of the dead wanted the “perpetrators” brought to justice.

In both the Nangahar and Kapisa incidents, the U.S. military blamed militants for putting innocent lives in danger. A villager in Kapisa, about 50 miles northeast of the capital, confirmed the U.S. account that a rocket was first fired at the American base.

Mr. Karzai has repeatedly pleaded for Western troops to show more restraint amid concern that civilian deaths shake domestic support for the foreign military involvement that the president needs to prop up his government, which is increasingly under threat from a resurgent Taliban.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said coalition forces will always respond in self-defense when fired upon: “It is often the enemy that is putting innocent peoples’ lives in danger by where they’re conducting these attacks on our forces.”

In the Kapisa province violence, the U.S. military said a rocket was fired at a hilltop U.S. base, prompting return fire by the coalition forces and the air strike.

Two men with automatic rifles were seen leaving the site of the rocket attack and heading into a compound that was then hit by two 2,000-pound bombs, a military statement said. Rural homes in Afghanistan are built in a compound style with one large outer wall often encasing several small rooms; many families tend to share the same compound.

“These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces,” said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman. “We observed the men entering a compound and that compound was targeted and hit by an air strike.”

The bombs left a large crater of twisted lumber and chunks of mud and killed four women, four children between 6 months and 5 years old, and an 80-year-old man, said Gulam Nabi, a relative of the victims.

Sayad Mohammad Dawood Hashimmi, Kapisa deputy governor, confirmed the nine deaths.

Among those killed were Gulam Nabi’s parents, his sister, two female relatives by marriage and four of the extended family’s youngest children.

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