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Pentagon Official Says US Gunship May Not Have Been Fired On - 2002-07-15


A senior Pentagon spokesman appeared Monday to alter the U.S. version of what happened during a controversial July 1 American air raid blamed for killing scores of Afghan civilians. But the Pentagon said later there had been no change.

Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa of the Pentagon's Joint Staff told reporters Monday it was not clear to him that the AC-130 gunship accused of killing civilians in an attack on an Afghan village had been fired upon first. General Rosa said, "I can't say unequivocally that the AC-130 was fired on. That will come out, hopefully, in the investigation."

The general's remarks appeared to mark a shift in the Pentagon's initial view of what happened in the incident north of Kandahar. Until now, officials had maintained the plane, as well as coalition forces on the ground, had come under fire, prompting the AC-130 to fire back.

Afghan officials claim the plane actually shot up a wedding party, where some guests may have fired weapons into the air in celebration.

A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation into the incident is under way.

But a few hours after General Rosa's remarks, the Pentagon issued an unusual statement of clarification. It said again U.S. forces on the ground as well as crew on board the AC-130 reported seeing hostile surface-to-air fire directed at the plane.

The statement did not explain why General Rosa made the comments he did.

However other officials said he had been on vacation and was not fully up-to-date on the July 1 incident.