Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mr. Khan, do you really think the Americans can be shamed?

AZIZABAD, Afghanistan Sept 9 (Reuters) - Relatives of Afghans killed in a U.S.-led coalition raid in western Herat province offered on Tuesday to dig up graves to support claims of large-scale civilian deaths.

But they said that U.S.-led forces must leave Afghanistan "in shame" if it was proven that an American account of the Aug. 22 air strike in Shindand district that most of the victims were Taliban fighters was wrong.

The incident has outraged Afghans and opened a rift between coalition forces on the one hand and the Afghan government and the U.N. on the other, which both say that more than 90 civilians were killed.

The U.S. military, which earlier disputed that figure, said it would re-investigate after new evidence had emerged about civilian casualties in the raid on Azizabad village.

"We are ready to dig out every grave to show the Americans that civilians, including women and children, were killed in the air strikes," village elder Gul Ahmad Khan, who said he lost three children in the strike, told Reuters.

But Khan, who represented the village during President Hamid Karzai's visit last week to commiserate with the families, said the U.S. must first agree it would pull out all its forces from the country if it was proved that civilians died in the strike.

"We will welcome them if they visit our bombed village to investigate. But we should have a deal first, if the Americans are proved wrong, then they should leave Afghanistan in shame," he said.

source article

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