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US Forces In 'Hazardous' Manuever When Bombing Accident Occurred - 2001-12-05

An errant U.S. bomb has killed three American soldiers, five Afghan anti-Taleban fighters and injured several others, including the man chosen to head Afghanistan's new interim government.

Pastun leader Hamid Karzai, chosen by Afghanistan's rival factions to head a new government to replace the Taleban, is reported to have sustained minor cuts and bruises in the bombing incident north of Kandahar.

A senior Pentagon official tells VOA the injuries were so slight that Mr. Karzai required no medical attention. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke tells reporters he is doing fine. "We have heard that Karzai has been out, he's been visible, seems to be doing fine," she said.

Few other details are known about Mr. Karzai's presence at the scene. But the incident occurred as his anti-Taleban forces were locked in combat outside Kandahar, the Taleban's last stronghold. U.S. Special Forces working with the anti-Taleban units called in airstrikes. One bomb dropped from a B-52 landed just 100 meters from their position. The American casualties were evacuated for medical treatment along with some of their Afghan allies.

Mr. Karzai denies being injured and makes no mention of the incident in a VOA interview. He says only he is honored to know his fellow Afghans have put their trust in him and that they think he can do the job of interim government leader.

"That is a great honor for me and I am basically grateful and with the help of all-might God we will do all that human beings can possibly do to bring peace, security and economic well-being for Afghanistan," he said.

The bombing incident is now under investigation to determine what went wrong. Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem of the U-S military's Joint Staff says such so-called close air support missions are the most hazardous.

"Calling in airstrikes, nearly simultaneously on your own position, on enemy forces you're engaged in close proximity to is a hazardous business and takes very fine control and coordination and precision," he said.

It is the worst casualty toll suffered by U.S. forces in a single incident since the Afghan campaign began two months ago.