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US Air Attack Kills 9 Afghan Children - 2003-12-07

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have begun investigating the deaths of nine Afghan children killed during an American air attack Saturday. U.S. military officials say the attack near the southern town of Ghazni was meant only to strike a person described as "a known terrorist."

They say an investigation team was sent to the location after the children were found dead at the scene. The military officials add that the target of the attack was also killed.

A statement from the headquarters of the U.S. led military coalition in Afghanistan expressed regret for the children's deaths.

Ahmad Masood, a spokesman for the Ghazni provincial governor, said that the assault was aimed against Mullah Wazir, a commander of fighters loyal to the country's former Taleban regime. Mr. Masood says people from the building had earlier fired on U.S. aircraft.

The incident prompted the United Nations to express grave concern, noting other coalition attacks in recent months that also resulted in civilian deaths.

Manoel de Almeida e Silva, the spokesman for the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, says the U.N. Secretary General's representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, asks that the coalition's investigation be swift and its results made public.

"The special representative of the secretary general hopes that lessons will be learned from this episode so that it is not repeated," he said.

The U.N. spokesman quoted Mr. Brahimi as saying that civilian casualties from coalition attacks create "a feeling of insecurity and fear" among Afghans.

The incident occurred near where suspected Taleban abducted two Indian engineers on Saturday. The men were working on a road reconstruction project.

Afghan authorities are searching for the men, whose kidnapping follows that of a Turkish engineer last month, working on the same project. The Turkish man was later released by his captors.