Afghan, U.S. reports on firefight differ
Afghan, U.S. reports on firefight differ
By RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writer 52 minutes ago
JALALABAD, Afghanistan - A U.S. Marine convoy was
attacked by a suicide bomber and militant ambush
Sunday on a busy highway in eastern Afghanistan, and
witnesses said that as the Americans sped away, they
opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians. As many
as 10 people were killed and 35 were wounded.
The American military said it was unclear who was
responsible for the casualties but more than a half
dozen Afghans recuperating from bullet wounds told The
Associated Press that the U.S. forces fired
indiscriminately as they drove away along at least a
six-mile stretch of one of eastern Afghanistan's
busiest highways a route often filled not only with
cars and trucks but Afghans on foot and bicycles.
A suicide attacker detonated an explosives-filled
minivan as the American convoy approached, then
militant gunmen fired on the troops inside the
vehicles, who returned fire, the U.S. military said.
The Americans treated every car and person along the
highway as a potential attacker, said Mohammad Khan
Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar.
"They were firing everywhere, and they even opened
fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway,"
said Tur Gul, 38, who was standing on the roadside by
a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand.
"They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the
vehicles and the ones on foot."
Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman,
said officials were still sorting out the chain of
events and could not yet say who caused the numerous
deaths and injuries.
The tolls varied widely. The Interior Ministry said 10
people were killed; the provincial health chief, Ajmel
Pardus, said eight died.
The U.S. military said eight civilians were killed and
35 wounded, after earlier saying 16 were killed and 24
wounded. It did not explain the revised, lower death
toll, saying only that the new figures were "the most
accurate numbers to date." A U.S. soldier was also
injured. The incident was under investigation, the
"It's not entirely clear right now if the people
killed or wounded by gunfire were killed or wounded by
coalition forces gunfire or enemy attackers gunfire,"
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said the
chief of the Interior Ministry's criminal division
would lead a delegation to Nangarhar province on
Monday to investigate. Bashary said it appeared that
gunfire from the U.S. soldiers caused most of the
The gunfire from Americans prompted angry
demonstrations in the region just 30 miles west of
the Pakistan border. Hundreds of Afghans blocked the
road and threw rocks at police, with some
demonstrators shouting "Death to America! Death to
Karzai," a reference to President Hamid Karzai.
At the Jalalabad hospital, several victims said the
American convoy approached them on the highway and
opened fire. As the convoy neared, many cars pulled
over to the side of the road, but were still hit by
"When we parked our vehicle, when they passed us, they
opened fire on our vehicle," said 15-year-old Mohammad
Ishaq, who was hit by two bullets, in his left arm and
his right ear. "It was a convoy of three American
Humvees. All three humvees were firing around."
Ahmed Najib, 23, lay in the next bed, hit by a bullet
in his right shoulder.
"One American was in the first vehicle, shouting to
stop on the side of the road, and we stopped. The
first vehicle did not fire on us, but the second
opened fire on our car," Najib said, adding that his
2-year-old brother was grazed by a bullet on his
cheek. "I saw them turning and firing in this
direction, then turning and firing in that direction.
I even saw a farmer shot by the Americans."
NATO and U.S. forces are often accused of firing at
Afghan civilians they fear may be about to launch an
attack. Though officials say the shootings are done in
self defense, they often injure or kill innocent
civilians. On Dec. 3, British troops speeding away
from a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar city opened
fire on cars, killing one civilian and wounding six
U.S. forces near Sunday's bombing later deleted photos
taken by a freelance photographer working for The
Associated Press and video taken by a freelancer
working for AP Television News. Neither the
photographer nor the cameraman witnessed the suicide
attack or the subsequent gunfire. It was not
immediately known why the soldiers deleted the photos
and videos. The U.S. military did not immediately
comment on the matter.
The freelance photographer, Rahmat Gul, said he took
photos of a four-wheel drive vehicle where three
Afghans had been shot to death inside.
An American soldier then took Gul's camera and deleted
the photos. Gul said he later received permission to
take photos from another soldier, but that the first
soldier came back and angrily told him to delete the
photos again. Gul said the soldier then raised his
fist as if he was going to strike Gul.
The U.S. forces involved in the attack and ensuing
gunfire were part of the U.S.-led coalition, not
NATO's International Security Assistance Force. An
official who asked not to be identified said the
troops were Marine Special Forces.
A man claiming to speak for Hezb-e-Islami, a group he
said is linked with the Taliban, claimed
responsibility for the bombing and identified the
attacker as an Afghan named Haji Ihsanullah in a
telephone call to AP. The spokesman said that the
attack was carried out by a breakaway faction of
Hezb-e-Islami that was once led by Younis Khalis, a
former mujahedeen commander who died last year. The
group is now believed to be led by a son of Khalis.
The purported spokesman, who identified himself as
Qari Sajjad, said the explosion "destroyed two
vehicles, killing or injuring American soldiers."
Sajjad said the attack was in revenge for "cruel acts"
done to Afghans by U.S. forces.
Accetta, the U.S. spokesman, said the attack
demonstrated the militants' "blatant disregard for
human life" by attacking forces in a populated area.
NATO officials repeatedly say that suicide bombs aimed
at international and Afghan forces kill far more
civilians than soldiers.
Two British soldiers were killed in a rocket attack in
southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, the British
defense ministry said Sunday. The latest deaths bring
to 50 the number of British troops killed since a
U.S.-led invasion overthrew Afghanistan's Taliban
regime in November 2001.