U.S. Airstrike at Taliban Kills Civilians, Afghans Say
By RUHULLAH KHAPALWAK
Published: May 23, 2006
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, May 22 — American planes in pursuit of suspected
Taliban fighters bombed a village in southern Afghanistan on Sunday night
and early Monday, killing 16 civilians and wounding 15, among them women and
children, the local governor and villagers said Monday.
The American-led coalition said it had conducted a "successful operation" in
the area, and had killed from 20 to 80 Taliban fighters in the bombing,
which struck the village of Tolokan.
The governor of Kandahar Province, Asadullah Khalid, expressed concern over
the civilian casualties after visiting the wounded in the Kandahar city
hospital, but he also urged civilians not to allow Taliban fighters to take
refuge in their homes.
"As they were chased by the coalition, the enemy hid in civilian houses, and
as it was nighttime and difficult to tell who is enemy and who is civilian,
unfortunately we have civilian casualties also," the governor said. "We are
upset about the civilian casualties."
A coalition spokesman, Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, said in a statement issued
in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that he was aware of reports of civilian
casualties, and that coalition forces were reviewing reports from the
The fighting over the past week in southern Afghanistan, against rebels
allied with the country's former Taliban rulers, has been the most intense
since the United States intervened in the country in late 2001 against the
Taliban and Al Qaeda. Hundreds of suspected Taliban fighters have battled
Afghan and coalition forces in several southern provinces, resulting in
scores of deaths.
Fighting that began last Wednesday has been raging in the Panjwai district,
about 15 miles west of the city of Kandahar. In the Sunday night operation,
coalition forces, led by Canadian troops on the ground and supported by
American planes, mounted their second operation in a week against a large
Taliban presence in and near Panjwai, a military statement said.
"The purpose of this operation was to detain individuals suspected of
terrorist and anti-Afghanistan activities," said the statement, issued from
Kabul. "These individuals were active members of the Taliban network and
have conducted attacks against coalition and Afghan forces as well as
The coalition encountered organized resistance and called in additional
ground and air support, another statement said.
Planes started bombing close to midnight Sunday and continued for four or
five hours into Monday, said residents of Tolokan.
Mohammed Rafiq, a 23-year-old farmer, said the bombs had caused enormous
destruction. "I don't have anything left," he said.
Another farmer, Azizullah, 30, said three members of his family had been
killed. "I was at home when the Taliban came to our village last night," he
said. "After some time, U.S. planes came and bombed the Taliban, and they
bombed us, too."
When he went out in the morning to go to the hospital, he said, he saw
dozens of dead Taliban fighters on the ground, apparently killed in the
aerial bombardment. Sixteen villagers were also killed and 15 were wounded,
he and other villagers said. Fifteen wounded people were in the hospital,
including an 8-month-old baby, doctors confirmed.
Another villager, Taj Muhammad, said two of his brothers had been killed,
and others in his family were wounded. He said that when the bombing
started, the Taliban were desperately trying to take shelter and were not
trying to fight.