Accounts Differ on Fatal NATO Strike on Afghans

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 9/2/10.

From Adam Ellick and Sangar Rahimi, the New York Times:  Airstrikes by  by NATO forces that killed 12 people on Thursday in northern Afghanistan have produced sharply conflicting accounts as to whether the attacks hit a team of election campaign workers, including the parliamentary candidate himself, or a group connected with an Uzbek terrorist network.

Afghan officials in Kabul and in Takhar Province, where the deaths occurred, said two NATO jets fired twice on a convoy of campaign workers. The candidate, Abdul Wahid Khurasani, was among three wounded.

“What reaction can I have?” said Mr. Khurasani by telephone from his hospital bed in Kabul, where he was being treated for minor injuries. “NATO came in, killed my supporters and my campaigners. They are powerful, what can I do? I cannot do anything.”

But in a contrasting assessment of the airstrike, international forces said it singled out a group connected to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, including a senior leader who is believed to be the deputy shadow governor in Takhar.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was in Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, said at a news conference with Mr. Karzai that “I can confirm that a very senior official of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was the target and was killed.” Mr. Gates said the official was responsible “for organizing and orchestrating a number of attacks here in Kabul and in northern Afghanistan. …”

Mohammad Hussein, the district chief of Rustaq, where the airstrike happened, said Mr. Khurasani’s entourage included a man named Amanullah, a former jihadist commander who had recently returned from an extended trip to Pakistan.

Mr. Khurasani said Mr. Amanullah was a relative and a strong supporter of his candidacy, and not a terrorist.

In a news release, NATO said the strike took aim at an insurgent who recently traveled to Pakistan, where he had regularly coordinated attacks with the Taliban.  (photo: AP)

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