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11 Afghan Civilians Killed in Accidental Bombing

11 Afghan Civilians Killed in Accidental Bombing

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An American warplane mistakenly bombed a house, killing 11 civilians near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The civilians were killed when the bomb landed on the home on the outskirts of Shkin, 135 miles south of the capital of Kabul, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Douglas Lefforge said.

The killings occurred after unidentified assailants attacked a checkpoint manned by soldiers allied to American forces near the town.

Two Harrier attack aircraft were called in and spotted two groups of five to 10 enemy fighters each. The jets attacked one group with their cannons.

One planes then dropped a 1,000-pound laser-guided bomb, but it missed its intended target, Lefforge said.

Lefforge said the assailants also fired automatic weapons at Pakistani soldiers across the border. It was unclear whether the attackers came from Pakistan.

The governor of Paktika province, Mohammed Ali Jalali, condemned the killings and said he took up the matter with U.S. officials.

"They were neither al-Qaida not Taliban. ... They were only innocent civilians," Jalali told The Associated Press.

There was no immediate reaction from Afghan authorities, but the incident was sure to produce outrage.

Lefforge said one Afghan male wounded in the blast was evacuated and treated at a U.S. base near the eastern town of Khost.

No U.S. soldiers were injured. It was unclear what happened to the enemy fighters.

"Coalition forces never intentionally target civilian locations," Lefforge said.

Four Afghan fighters were injured in the initial fighting and evacuated to a nearby U.S. base. They were in stable condition.

The last major occurrence of civilian casualties caused by American-led forces occurred July 1, when an Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked several villages in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province. Forty-eight civilians were killed and 117 were wounded, Afghan officials said.

Survivors said most of the dead were attending a wedding in the town of Deh Rawood. The only gunfire from the area came from celebrants shooting their rifles into the air, they said.

Muhammad Ramzan, a shopkeeper in Angoor Adda, the last town in Pakistan just across the border from Shkin, said witnesses who crossed the border said most of the victims were women and children belonging to the Ahmedzai tribe.

"The locals are very upset with this bombing because these people had nothing to do with the attack on allied forces," Ramzan said.

More than 10,000 foreign troops -- 8,000 of them American -- have been hunting down rebel fighters from the former Taliban regime, the al-Qaida network and their allies, including former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

There have been several rocket attacks and ambushes in recent weeks near Shkin. U.S. military officials believe rebel groups are launching incursions into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Afghan authorities say Taliban remnants are reorganizing in an effort to destabilize the fledgling government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai. Southern Afghanistan in particular has been wracked by attacks in the last few weeks by suspected Taliban fighters.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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