Afghan Panel: U.S. Airstrike Killed 47 in Wedding Party

Associated Press
Saturday, July 12, 2008

KABUL, July 11 -- A U.S. military airstrike this week killed 47 civilians traveling to a wedding, the head of an Afghan government commission investigating the incident said Friday.

The airstrike Sunday in the Deh Bala district of Nangahar province also wounded nine civilians, said Burhanullah Shinwari, the deputy chairman of the Senate, who led the commission.

The U.S. military on Sunday denied that any civilians were killed in the incident. At the time, Afghan officials said 27 civilians had been killed.

"I assure you that civilians are never targeted and that our forces go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties," a U.S. coalition spokesman, 1st Lt. Nathan Perry, said Friday. "This incident regarding the airstrike on July 6th is still under investigation by coalition forces."

Shinwari said 39 of those killed in the airstrike were women and children, including the bride.

The nine-member commission was dispatched Tuesday by President Hamid Karzai to investigate the incident. The commission members returned to Kabul on Thursday. The panel included officials from the Ministry of Defense, the country's intelligence agency and parliament.

Shinwari said the panel gathered information from witnesses and victim's relatives. "They were all civilians, with no links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban," he said of those killed.

The issue of civilian casualties has caused friction between the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO troops and has weakened the standing of the Western-backed Karzai.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company