US bomb error 'kills 70'

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The Independent Online

American air raids have killed at least 70 civilians, and possibly hundreds, in a single night in the biggest bombing mistake of the war, according to pro-Western commanders in eastern Afghanistan. The US military said the bombing "just did not happen".

The civilians apparently died as the result of mis-targeting by B-52 bombers aiming at al-Qa'ida bases in the White Mountains near Jalalabad, where Osama bin Laden is reported to be hiding. At least 50 people died late on Friday night in the villages of Baluth and Akal Khal in the Mairajuddin district, 30 miles from the regional capital, while another raid early yesterday morning destroyed the village of Kama Ado.

One commander claimed only 20 people were killed in Kama Ado, but Lal Gul, a local farmer, said few villagers were left alive from a population of more than 200. Major Brad Lowell, a Marine Corps spokesman, said although American bombs did hit a target in the area, it was not civilian. He said the witnesses' account "doesn't jibe with our imagery", adding: "It just did not happen."

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, more than 80 Taliban survivors emerged from a fort where a prison revolt killed hundreds several days ago. Taliban have also released a Canadian journalist.

Last night Pashtun tribal fighters claimed to have captured part of Kandahar airport from the Taliban and their al-Qa'ida allies as US aircraft pounded the area.