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U.S. to reopen inquiry of Afghan airstrikes

Zinat Gul, 24, who the family says was wounded by a U.S. airstrike, is comforted by her mother at a hospital near Kabul.

Associated Press

Zinat Gul, 24, who the family says was wounded by a U.S. airstrike, is comforted by her mother at a hospital near Kabul.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military said Sunday that it has "new information" about an American attack that Afghanistan says killed 90 civilians and that it is sending a senior military officer from U.S. Central Command in Tampa to the country to review its initial investigation — which concluded that no more than seven civilians died.

The military did not say what new information had emerged. But Afghan and Western officials say Afghanistan's intelligence agency and the U.N. both have video of the aftermath of the airstrikes on Azizabad village showing dozens of dead women and children.

An Afghan government commission has said 90 civilians, including 60 children and 15 women, died in the Aug. 22 bombings, a finding that the U.N. backed in its own initial report.

But a U.S. investigation released Tuesday said only up to seven civilians and 35 militants were killed in the operation in the western province of Herat.

A U.N. official who has seen one video of Azizabad said it shows maimed children. The official became highly emotional describing rows of bodies.

A second Western official said one video shows bodies of "tens of children" lined up. He called the video "gruesome."

The two officials spoke on condition they not be identified because the videos had not been publicly released.

Although the United States said Tuesday its investigation of the attack was complete, the military at that time appeared to leave open the possibility that photographs or video from the scene could emerge.

U.S. officials said privately last week that they were aware photographic evidence apparently existed, but that they did not have access to it.

On Sunday, Gen. David Mc­Kiernan — the senior U.S. officer in Afghanistan and the commander of the 40-nation NATO-led mission — requested that a U.S. general travel from U.S. Central Command to Afghanistan to review the U.S. investigation.

That announcement followed by one day a statement attributed to McKiernan on Azizabad that said, "We realize there is a large discrepancy between the number of civilians casualties reported." McKiernan would continue to "try to account for this disparity," the statement said.

The New York Times said a reporter saw cell phone video in Azizabad of at least 11 children among 30 to 40 bodies laid out in the village mosque. The last victim, an infant, was dug out of the rubble 10 days after the strike, it said.

U.S. to reopen inquiry of Afghan airstrikes 09/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:41pm]
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