Pentagon denies its bombs hit village
(CNN) - The U.S. military officially denied reports Saturday that bombs from overnight U.S. airstrikes killed dozens of civilians in two villages in eastern Afghanistan.
The regional security chief for the Nangarhar province had said 50 civilians were killed and at least five others were wounded when bombs landed in Talkhel and Balut, near Tora Bora, which is believed to be an al Qaeda base.
But Maj. Brad Lowell, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said the planes were attacking a cave and tunnel complex.
"We've reviewed all means available," Lowell said. "We had good imagery on these. We saw the weapons hit their targets, which were cave and tunnel systems. There were no buildings in view to depict or suggest residential areas."
Lowell would not say specifically what means were used. In the past, the Pentagon has used nose cone video and video from guided weapons for analysis. He said U.S. warplanes conducted bombing runs early Friday morning.
He said a similar analysis led U.S. military officials to discount earlier reports that errant bombing had destroyed the village of Kama Ado, some 30 miles (50 km) south of Jalalabad. Witnesses had reported that 100 to 200 civilians had died. Lowell said the imagery showed the target of U.S. aircraft was more than 20 miles away, and not near the village in question.
Meanwhile, representatives of Afghanistan's many ethnic, religious and political groups meeting near Bonn, Germany, are expected to announce Sunday that they have agreed on a rough outline for an interim, post-Taliban, government. Under a proposal offered by the Northern Alliance, a group of about 25 people would rule the country until a loya jirga, or traditional Afghan council, would take power. (Full story)
A Canadian journalist held by the Taliban in Spin Boldak for seven days was released Saturday and allowed to cross into Pakistan. Ken Hechmtman, a free-lancer for the Montreal Mirror, was met at the border by two Canadian diplomats, who had negotiated his release. The 33-year-old said he was fine, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
A battalion-size force of U.S. Marines dug in near Kandahar, quietly awaiting orders that one Marine spokesman pledged would be accomplished "with a vengeance." (Full story)
More than 80 Taliban fighters emerged Saturday from a prison near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, where hundreds of their comrades and a CIA operative were killed in a prisoner-of-war uprising this week. The prisoners surrendered to the Northern Alliance, according to the Red Cross.
Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said Saturday he believes bin Laden remains in southern Afghanistan near Kandahar. But Abdullah said bin Laden's al Qaeda commanders could be hiding out in caves in the Tora Bora area, where the U.S. overnight bombing occurred.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Bush outlined his plan to provide immediate assistance to those who lost their jobs in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The plan, Bush said, would extend by 13 weeks unemployment compensation in states hit hardest by terrorism, help states offer Medicaid to uninsured workers and their families, and offer emergency grants to help displaced workers get job training, find work and continue their health insurance. (Full story)
Bush on Saturday attended the annual Army-Navy college football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "My mind is on the game," Bush told players during a pregame visit to the locker room. "But my mind is elsewhere, too. My mind is on our men and women who wear our uniform ... as we wage a noble cause to fight terror. The cause is just -- and make no mistake about it -- we will prevail."
In a Newsweek poll released Saturday, 74 percent of respondents said actions by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism are "about right." Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they favored the administration's plan to put non-U.S. citizens charged with terrorism on trial in special military tribunals. Thirty-five percent said they strongly favor new powers given to federal authorities to detain legal immigrants indefinitely who are suspected of terrorist-related crimes.
An Egyptian accused of aiding al Qaeda is in Italian police custody Saturday as part of a crackdown on the terrorist network's activities in that country, authorities said. Kishk Samir, 46, was arrested Friday night at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport en route from Cairo to Paris, France, where he lives. He is suspected of being affiliated with a group headed by Essid Sami Ben Khemais, who was arrested in Milan in April, the Italian Interior Ministry said.
U.S. Central Command on Saturday denied a report that Taliban forces had shot down a U.S. warplane near Kandahar. "All planes are accounted for," said Sgt. Maj. Rich Czizik with U.S. Central Command public affairs. The report came from Mulla Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan.
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