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Identities Unknown of Dead in Afghan Missile Strike - 2002-02-12

Confusion continues to surround the identity of those killed in a U.S. missile strike in Afghanistan last week and in a separate incident in which Afghans say they were beaten by U.S. troops.

U.S. Special Forces are still trying to determine who was actually hit when a missile was fired by an unmanned CIA aircraft over southeastern Afghanistan a week ago and how many people were killed.

U.S. officials have said they believed those targeted were men in the Zawar Kili area near a camp suspected of being used by al-Qaida terrorists. They even suggest one of the men seen by surveillance aircraft generally fit the description of Osama bin Laden.

Afghan authorities say the dead were innocent civilians.

At the Pentagon Monday, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem told reporters that remains from the site are still being analyzed but that forensic evidence gathered so far, including human remains, suggests those targeted were anything but innocent villagers.

Admiral Stufflebeem said, "What I hear about what has been recovered from that site to date include things like weapons and ammunition, include things like communications systems or at least things that would give you the impression that there may have been communication devices, documents in English having to do with applications for credit cards possibly or maybe for airline schedules."

On another matter, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has ordered an investigation into allegations by Afghans who say they were beaten and abused after they were detained by U.S. Special Forces north of Kandahar last month.

As many as 20 people may have been killed in a mistaken raid which the Pentagon's Victoria Clarke blames on faulty intelligence. "There was a great deal of confusion about information in general and we do always try to get to ground truth," she said. "In this particular instance, we have no evidence that those sort of beatings took place. But the Secretary and General [Tommy] Franks have asked the local commander to look into it further."

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has acknowledged Afghan allies on the ground may have been killed in the mistaken belief that those captured were Taleban or al-Qaida members.