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Afghans say US airstrike killed 140

THE United States airstrikes earlier this month killed 140 villagers, an Afghan government investigation concluded yesterday, putting Kabul starkly at odds with the US military's account.

The official death toll, announced by the Afghan Defense Ministry, makes the bombing the deadliest incident for civilians since US forces began fighting the Taliban in 2001, and is likely to worsen anger over the presence of foreign troops.

A copy of the government's list of the names, ages and father's names of each of the 140 dead was obtained by Reuters earlier this week. It shows that 93 of those killed were children and only 22 were adult males.

Relatives paid

"No other news makes me as sad and sorrowful as incidents of civilian casualties during military operations," the Afghan Defense Ministry statement quoted President Hamid Karzai as saying.

The Afghan government paid the relatives of victims the equivalent of about US$2,000 for those who were killed and US$1,000 for 25 others wounded, it said.

US aircraft bombed villages in the Bala Boluk district of Afghanistan's western Farah Province on May 3 after US Marines and Afghan security forces became involved in a firefight with Taliban militants.

The incident has prompted anger across Afghanistan toward Western troops, and caused Karzai to demand a halt to all airstrikes, a plea Washington has rebuffed.

The US military says it cannot provide its own death toll because the dead were quickly buried.


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