Villages pay price as US bombs go awry
In fact, the US bombs did not miss their target. Their plan is to kill all
Muslims, including civilians.
Villages pay price as US bombs go awry
By Philip Smucker in Jalalabad
SCORES of villagers have been killed by off-target American bombing of
Tora Bora, Osama bin Laden's suspected mountain hideout, a senior
anti-Taliban commander said yesterday.
Last night, as the barrage continued, explosions could be heard from the
outskirts of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, to the north of Tora
Bora. Villagers said bombs had missed the target and landed in their
impoverished communities a few miles from the cave complex.
Injured Afghans last night packed the emergency wards of Jalalabad's main
hospital as relatives, some of whom said they had lost dozens of members
of their extended families, denounced the bombings as grossly off-target.
Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, the regional military commander, said bin Laden was
sighted in the area three days ago and had been sent a message appealing
for negotiations to end the bloodshed.
He said bin Laden was asked to consider the hardship he was bringing to
the Afghan people as American aircraft bombed the area. Almost 100
civilians had died over the past three days of raids, he added.
Hazrat Ali, the provincial security chief, said two elders claimed to have
received a message from bin Laden in which he said he did not want to
fight fellow Muslims, only "foreign troops".
Mr Ali said he had sent a delegation to the White Mountains to negotiate
the surrender of the foreign fighters defending bin Laden's mountain base.
If they do not comply, he said, they would come under attack from a force
of 1,500 troops sent from Jalalabad within days.
Kenton Keith, the spokesman for the US-led coalition, said reports of
civilian casualties around Tora Bora were being checked but he could not
confirm whether any American bombs had gone astray and accused the Taliban
of using "human shields".
Moor Mohamed was still conscious even as doctors said they doubted he
would survive. Both of his mangled arms had been amputated. "How can the
Americans be so blind?" said Sultan Mohamed, the boy's uncle. "Everyone
says Osama is seven miles deep inside Tora Bora in a cave; nowhere near
The strikes on his home were carried out with large "dumb bombs" that blew
giant craters in the earth and levelled the mud brick houses at the base
of the White Mountains. Dozens of men, women and children were reported to
have been buried.
"At 2.30am we heard a huge noise of something hitting our village," said
Sultan Mohamed. "It was a giant bomb but it just hit with a thud and did
not explode. The second one hit nearby and the third one hit our roof.
Moor was sleeping and it took us two hours to pry him free from the
rubble. I'm afraid it was too late."
In the same ward, 14 other men and boys were critically injured. A room
down the hall for females included still younger children, who had been
injured in the blast while sleeping.
Over two days, three villages were hit, all of them at the base of Tora
Bora, but apparently far down the road from the Arab guerrillas of bin
Laden's al-Qa'eda organisation. Dick Cheney, the US vice president, last
week said he believed that bin Laden was hiding in the vast Tora Bora cave
network. British defence sources said they had similar intelligence.
The US strikes appeared widely off-target. At least 15 fighters and
administrators working with a Western-backed warlord in Jalalabad were
killed in bombing. Cdr Ghamsharik had boasted of meeting US
representatives in Jalalabad last week.
Lala Agha, a villager, said he had helped to place 22 bodies in lorries
and driven them to a burial ground: "I was in a house when the bombs hit
and we raced outside digging for bodies. I think there are still dozens
buried in the earth."
The young man said some of his fellow villagers were now angry at the
commander. "They say that Haji Zaman told the Americans to bomb," he said.
At the main hospital in Jalalabad most of the families of the injured and
dying blamed the US military. They said they understood that the Americans
had been targeting bin Laden, but questioned how "smart bomb" strikes
could have gone so far afield. Niaz Mohamad, 45, said: "The US says that
they can see everything. Why don't they hit Osama and not us?"
Some of the villagers vehemently denied that there were any Arabs living
in their area. Three weeks ago, a convoy of several hundred Arabs are said
to have left their vehicles on the road into Tora Bora.
A 60-year-old man who lost his wife and two grandsons said he escaped
because he had left home for the evening prayer. "The Americans are
shouting that they will bring peace, but they can't find Osama and instead
they bomb us."
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