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US Launches Probe in Killing of 9 Afghan Children - 2003-12-07

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are investigating the accidental killing of nine Afghan children in an air attack on Saturday.

A U.S. military spokesman says the nine Afghan children died along with the suspected terrorist in a coalition attack near the southern town of Ghazni. He says coalition forces had information that a leader of the ousted Taleban regime was in the area. The suspect, Mullah Wazir, was believed to have recently killed two road construction workers.

In a statement, the U.S. military expressed regret for the children's deaths in the air attack, and said the tragic incident is being investigated. A local Afghan official in the area says the air strike was carried out after people inside the building fired at U.S. aircraft.

Afghan authorities have also launched their own investigation into the attack.

"The government has asked for explanations, and also has launched an investigation into the incident," said Ali Ahmed Jalali, Afghanistan's interior minister. "Last night, the Ministry of Interior sent a team. They are already in the area, and I hope soon you will have more information about the case."

The United Nations has described the deaths of the children as profoundly distressing. Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a spokesman for the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, said that Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. Secretary General's representative for the country, has asked that the coalition's investigation be swift and its results made public.

The spokesman said that civilian casualties from U.S.-led coalition attacks create a feeling of insecurity and fear among Afghans.

"We are aware that, obviously, this is not intentional," said Mr. de Almeida e Silva. "We are aware that caution is taken. But these kind of mistakes do have a negative impact among the population."

Hours after Saturday's air strike, suspected Taleban insurgents kidnapped two Indian nationals working on a U.S.-funded road project linking the capital to the southern city of Kandahar.

On Sunday, Afghan authorities said suspected Taleban militants abducted two Turkish workers as they worked on a well-digging project just outside Kabul.