Oops, again

Victor vrosado at ic.sunysb.edu
Fri Dec 21 14:01:48 MST 2001


Friday December 21 1:57 PM ET

U.S. Bombing on Afghan Convoy Said to Kill 65

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. warplanes bombed a convoy of Afghan tribal elders
going to Kabul to attend the swearing in of an interim government, killing
65 people after locals misinformed the Pentagon, provincial leaders said on
Friday.

But a top Pentagon official said the convoy, destroyed by U.S. military
AC-130 gunships and Navy jet fighters, was believed to be carrying leaders
of the Taliban or Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, being hunted by
Washington.

Local residents said supporters of the incoming leader, Hamid Karzai, came
under attack after they left a tribal meeting en route for Kabul and
informers apparently told U.S. contacts they were pro-Taliban.

Two local leaders, quoted by the BBC and the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic
Press (AIP), said the bombing on Thursday night and into Friday morning
struck the convoy as it traveled from the eastern border town of Khost to
the Paktia provincial capital, Gardez.

The 65 dead included tribal elders and former mujahideen commanders going to
Kabul to attend Saturday's inauguration, the privately owned AIP said.

Fourteen vehicles in the convoy were destroyed by the bombing near Sato
Kandau, 15 miles south of Gardez, AIP said, quoting a member of the ruling
provincial shura, or council, Sayed Yaqeen.

The BBC quoted another shura member, Haji Saifullah, as saying the convoy
was bombed after it had diverted to a bypass from the main Khost-Gardez
road.

Some locals told the Americans the travelers were members of bin Laden's al
Qaeda.

Saifullah said the convoy turned into the bypass because some local people
prevented it from traveling on the main road.

Another local witness quoted by the BBC said he was due to travel in the
convoy but left after 50 to 60 people opposed to incoming leader Karzai
stopped it taking the main road.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
said the bombed convoy consisted of about 10 to 12 vehicles, which were
destroyed.

``The vehicles were destroyed, the people were killed and the compound from
which they left was destroyed,'' Pace told reporters at a Pentagon briefing,
adding the attack occurred in the last 24 hours.

Pace said the compound contained ``leadership'' but did not make clear if
they were leaders of the collapsed Taliban movement or al Qaeda.

``The intelligence we gathered at the time indicated to us that this was in
fact leadership and we struck the leadership,'' Pace said.

AIP said bodies of five people killed in the bombing had been brought to
Khost by Friday evening.

It quoted its sources in the area as saying that one of the dead was
``Commander'' Mohammad Ibrahim, a brother of former mujahideen commander
Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Haqqani had fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s
but became the tribal affairs minister in the Taliban government, swept from
power last month after punitive U.S.-led bombing for sheltering bin Laden,
prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, and his
followers.


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