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US Military Investigating Reports of Mistaken Raid in Kandahar - 2002-02-05

U.S. military officials have returned to a village north of the Afghan city of Kandahar to investigate charges that a surprise American raid last month was a mistake, and led to the deaths of innocent civilians. There are already fresh reports of U.S. apologies and payments to the families of victims.

A reporter for U.S. National Public Radio says U.S. military officials have expressed regret for the mistaken raid. He also discloses that families of the dead have received compensation paid in American $100 bills. America's ABC News carries a similar report.

A Pentagon spokesman says he knows nothing about any direct U.S. payments. But the spokesman suggests the money may have been paid out by the new Afghan interim government.

It was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who disclosed Monday that U.S. troops had returned to the village, and, he told reporters, during a budget briefing, they would apologize, if necessary.

Mr. Rumsfeld also suggested the issue of compensation was raised by interim leader Hamid Karzai during recent talks with American officials. But Mr. Rumsfeld would not confirm any payments.

"He [Karzai] said that in the event that it turns out people were in fact killed who were friendly to the interim government, that would be unfortunate, and it would be helpful, if some way could be found to compensate them in some way. But I don't know anything about the details of that," the Defense Secretary said.

The raid took place two weeks ago north of Kandahar. U.S. troops struck what was thought to be a suspicious compound, where al-Qaida or Taleban forces may have been stockpiling weapons.

At least 15 people were killed in the surprise raid, 27 others were detained, and a huge arsenal of munitions was destroyed.

But later, reports from the region indicated the victims and the detainees were supporters of the new government, guarding weapons picked up in a disarmament drive. It was at that point that the Pentagon promised a full investigation.