As the fallout from the Herat bombing continues, Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a Presidential decree today ordering the immediate firing of two Army officials, including the top ranking officer in western Afghanistan, General Jalandar Shah Behnam, for “negligence and concealing facts,” as al-Jazeera reports that the air strikes have cost Karzai considerable support in the area.
Meanwhile, a council of local religious leaders demanded that those involved in the deaths be brought to trial. In a statement released earlier today they declared “(we) will not accept their apologies this time,” while United Nations Envoy Kai Eide issued a statement cautioning that civilian casualties “undermine the confidence of the Afghan people.”
Stopping short of an apology, the White House expressed its “regret” for the loss of innocent life while promising an investigation. Though the US military had persistently denied that any civilians were killed in Friday’s strike, the Times reported that they had conceded the deaths of at least five civilians.
Initially reported by US military as a raid killing 30 militants and no civilians, Afghan officials quickly contested the account, claiming a large number of civilian deaths. The toll rose as Afghan officials completed their investigations to 95 dead and an unknown additional number wounded. Afghan Minister Nematullah Shahrani said that most were women and children, and challenged US forces to produce evidence that any Taliban were at the site of the strike, which stands as one of the largest incidents of US-inflicted civilian casualties since the 2001 invasion.
compiled by Jason Ditz
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