The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 29, 2001
U.S. bomb hits civilians,
and doubt begins to surface
woman was killed in a village 4 miles from Taliban targets. Some Afghans
are questioning military tactics.
War With Terror
Afghanistan - She was sewing clothes for her brother-in-law's wedding when
the stray 500-pound bomb fell from the wing of a U.S. warplane Saturday
afternoon and crashed through the roof of her house.
flash and the explosion were deafening, leveling the center of the
two-story structure built of mud bricks and sturdy poles.
25, a mother of two who was working on a hand-powered sewing machine, was
killed instantly by shrapnel. Ten others, mostly her relatives, were
morning, the townspeople of this village inside the lines of the anti-Taliban
Afghan opposition forces stoically buried Kukugul. They also laid to rest
some of their confidence in America's fabled precision bombing.
United States announced they could defeat our enemies by computer
technology," said Baluch, 57, a local military commander who, like
many Afghans, uses only one name. "Why do their bombs miss? They
should destroy our enemies, not us."
bomb that struck here was a colossal blunder. Ghanikhel is two miles from
the front lines separating fighters of the Northern Alliance with soldiers
of the Taliban, the fanatical Islamic movement that rules most of
Afghanistan and has been the target of U.S. bombing raids for more than
among plots of corn and cotton on a broad plain north of Kabul, Ghanikhel
is at least four miles from the Taliban targets that American jets were
hammering Saturday in the heaviest attacks yet during a week of
bombardment of frontline positions.
galled residents here even more is that the stray bomb fell within sight
of foreign military observers - said to be either American or British -
who they say are camped on a nearby hill to help pilots target their
foreigners even have their headquarters over on that hill," Baluch
said, gesturing to a nearby knoll where the forward spotters are said to
be camped. Presumably they are the same people whose English voices were
heard on two-way radios Saturday commenting on the air strikes.
did they allow their planes to bomb here?" Baluch said.
health workers, quoting patients admitted to the Italian-run emergency
hospital in nearby Anawa, said U.S. planes bombarded two other villages
Saturday, killing as many as nine people. One village was on the Taliban
side of the front, and the other was on the Northern Alliance side.
Neither was accessible, and casualty figures could not be confirmed.
in Ghanikhel on Saturday told reporters that 10 people were missing and 20
injured, but the numbers appear to have been exaggerated in the excitement
just after the explosion. The death of the young woman was the only
confirmed fatality, though Abdullah, the chief spokesman and foreign
minister of the Northern Alliance, said two people died.
speaking to reporters last night, called the bombing of Ghanikhel a
"tragic mistake," but he said such incidents were
"inevitable" in times of war, especially along a front line that
stretches for more than 600 miles in various locations.
should bear in mind it's quite a lengthy front line, and this was the
first time" a bomb struck civilians in areas under control of the
Northern Alliance, he said.
praised the increased intensity of bombing Saturday, which followed
several days of complaints from Northern Alliance commanders about what
they saw as the indolent pace of the American attacks.
yesterday's type of bombing becomes the standard, our objectives could be
achieved much quicker," Abdullah said.
the skies over the Shomali Plain, where the front line stretches over a
broad basin about 25 miles north of Kabul, were relatively quiet yesterday
as few jets flew overhead. The occasional thump of distant weapons came
from tanks and artillery, rather than aerial bombing.
said other fronts were calm where Northern Alliance soldiers were expected
to make advances, including the lines around the key northern city of
Ghanikhel, there were mixed reactions to the bombing. Reporters who
visited the village a few hours after the bomb struck were met with
yesterday morning, the anger had subsided, though some people were still
angry when questioned.
the United States repeats this action again, we will stand against them as
we stood against the Russians," said Abdul Jan, who identified
himself as a local commander. "If they cannot destroy our enemies,
they should just stop bombing."
Khan, 35, who was outside his house when the bomb killed his wife,
extended his hand and accepted condolences from foreign journalists who
crowded into the village yesterday to crawl over the rubble of his house,
where a thick layer of dust covered a bird cage, a half-buried bicycle,
and a clock on the wall, stopped at 4:25 p.m.
know it was a mistake," Khan said. "But they should be more
careful. If they're going to bomb here, they should evacuate this
said that his palsied hands trembled more than usual, and that he suffered
from an intense headache.
pain is circling everywhere," he said, motioning around his head with
said he heard nothing before the bomb struck his house. Photographed by a
British Sky News television crew, the bomb left the outside position of
the right wing of a Navy F/A-18 Hornet and fell straight down.
who last saw his wife sewing in an upstairs room, was standing a few
hundred yards away when the explosion knocked him down and filled the air
with dust of what used to be his home.
and his two brothers moved to Ghanikhel only a month ago. They were forced
to evacuate their village, Sangi Burida, after it came under threat from a
Taliban advance on the front line.
three brothers occupied separate apartments in the house. There were 15
members of their family in the dwelling, now destroyed.
came here because we thought this place was safe," he said.