- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan | The bodies of at least 10 children and many more adults covered in blankets and white shrouds appear in videos obtained by the Associated Press on Monday, lending weight to Afghan and U.N. allegations that a U.S.-led raid last month killed more civilians than the U.S. reported.

The sounds of wailing women mixed with the voices of men shouting inside a white-walled mosque in the western village of Azizabad, where an Afghan government commission and U.N. report said some 90 civilians - including 60 children and 15 women - were killed.

The two grainy videos, apparently taken by cell phones, showed bodies lying side-by-side on the mosque floor, covered by floral-patterned blankets and black-and-white checkered shawls. One young boy lay curled in a fetal position; others looked as though they were asleep. One child had half its head blown off.

Turbaned men walked around, gently lifting the blankets covering the faces of the dead. At least two elderly men were among the dead. There appeared to be several dozen bodies lying on the mosque floor, though a precise count was difficult because of the poor quality of the images.

The videos do not provide proof that 60 children died in the operation, but the images do appear to contradict a U.S. military investigation that found only seven civilians were killed in Azizabad, along with up to 35 militants.

The U.S. said Sunday it would reopen the investigation because of emerging new evidence. On Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said that over the weekend new “imagery evidence” came to the attention of Gen. David D. McKiernan, the American commander of the NATO-led force here.

“There is some evidence that suggests that the evidence that the U.S. military used in … its investigation may not have been complete,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

He said a general to be sent to Afghanistan by U.S. Central Command will review the initial investigation. But it is also possible there will be a new inquiry into the raid in Azizabad - this time conducted by Central Command, said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for the command in Tampa, Fla.

U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos carried out the operation.

Afghan officials say U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos raided the village while hundreds of people were gathered in a large compound for a memorial service honoring a tribal leader, Timor Shah, who was killed eight months ago by a rival, Nader Tawakal.

The U.S. investigative report released last week said American and Afghan forces took fire from militants while approaching Azizabad and that “justified use of well-aimed small-arms fire and close air support to defend the combined force.”

The report said investigators discovered evidence the militants planned to attack a nearby coalition base.


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