(Quetta, Pakistan) -- At least twenty-three civilians, the majority of them young children, were killed when U.S. bombs hit a remote Afghan village located near a Taliban military base on the night of October 21, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch urged the U.S.-led alliance to ensure that it is taking adequate precautions to avoid civilian casualties, and launch an immediate investigation into the bombing raid that hit Thori village.
"The Pentagon has to find out how this tragedy took place," said Sidney Jones, Executive Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "The findings of its investigation should be made public."
Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed several of the survivors from Thori who are currently recovering in a hospital in Quetta.
According to the consistent and detailed accounts given by the survivors, U.S. warplanes began bombing the area around the remote Thori village, located in the Urozgan province of Afghanistan, at about 7:30 p.m. on the evening of October 21, 2001. The apparent target of the attack was a large Taliban military base known as Gar Mao located a kilometer or so from the village, which held ammunition depots and a defunct military prison, as well as Taliban military personnel. The survivors reported that bombing raids struck the village three times, beginning at 10 p.m. on October 21 and ending at about 1 a.m. the next morning.
Maroof, aged thirty-eight, lived at his farm located about one kilometer from the village and told Human Rights Watch that he had witnessed the attacks, first on the Taliban military base, and then on the nearby village, from his home. When he rushed to the village the next day, he found the family compound of his relatives in ruins, and villagers digging through the rubble. Twelve bodies of his relatives were recovered from the debris of the family compound. The dead included the two sons and two daughters of his twenty-five-year-old sister Rhidi Gul: Aminullah, aged eight; Raminullah, aged three; Noorjan, aged five; and Gulpia, aged four. Rhidi Gul was recovering from serious wounds at the Quetta hospital, unable to speak from her wounds, together with her surviving one-year-old son Hamidullah, also seriously wounded in the attack. Khamno, a ten-year old sister-in-law of Rhidi Gul, also survived the attack and was recovering from serious shrapnel wounds to the face in the Quetta hospital.
Also killed were three of his brothers-in-law: Abdul Ghani, aged twenty-five; Fazliullah, aged fifteen; Mohammed Rahim, aged four; and one sister-in-law: Sherina, aged twelve or thirteen. Another sister-in-law, fifteen-year-old Zarjana, died at the Chinai Hospital in Kandahar as doctors attempted to remove a piece of shrapnel from her body. Three other relatives were also killed: the twenty-year-old wife of his brother-in-law Abdul Ghani and her three-year-old daughter Mohtarama, as well as forty-five-year-old Bobo, the mother of Abdul Ghani.
Twenty-five-year-old Samiullah was outside the village when the bombing raids began, and rushed home to rescue his family. When he arrived at his family compound, he found the bodies of his twenty-year-old wife and three of his children: Mohibullah, aged six; Harifullah, aged three; and Bibi Aysha, aged one. He refused to name several female victims on religious grounds. As he was recovering their bodies, the bombing raids resumed, and he himself was wounded in the attacks.
Also killed were his two brothers, Nasiullah, aged eight, and Ghaziullah, aged six, as well as two of his sisters, aged fourteen and eleven. Three cousins, all siblings, also died: Ahmed Wali, aged six; Nabiullah, aged 3; and their eight-month old sister. A fourth cousin whom he was unable to identify died during the grueling seven-hour trip on a farm truck to the hospital in Kandahar.
Several additional survivors from Thori were also in the Quetta hospital, recovering from their wounds. Twenty-year-old Faisal Rahim rushed to help the wounded in Thori, and was himself wounded when the bombing resumed and a wall collapsed on his leg. Another young man at the Quetta hospital who wanted to remain anonymous was seriously wounded in the foot by shrapnel.
Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. and its allies in the current campaign to provide and evaluate information on civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects. In addition, it said they should regularly examine target and weapons selection, and take whatever corrective measures may be necessary to minimize the effects on civilians.