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Pentagon: Stray missile may have hit U.N. office

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the deaths
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the deaths "a hard blow."  


UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Pentagon sources said Tuesday that an errant U.S. cruise missile may have hit the office of a United Nations-funded mine-clearing operation in Afghanistan, killing four Afghan security workers.

The office, east of Kabul, was in a building next to a communications tower used by the Taliban.

Pentagon sources said the United States sent four cruise missiles against communications towers in the area near Kabul, and three hit their intended target.

The fourth cruise missile is unaccounted for.

The Pentagon acknowledged it was "entirely possible" that the missing missile hit the U.N. building, even though it was not targeted by the U.S. military.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "We regret the loss of life."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday called the news of the deaths a "hard blow."

"The council members raised ... their deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of those aid workers who died and of course stressed the fact that we need to do all we can to protect innocent civilians in the struggle, and of course for the U.N. it is a hard blow," Annan said. "It's something that is of great concern to me and the staff in this organization."

Earlier, a spokeswoman offered the official U.N. reaction.

"Today the U.N. coordinator appeals to the international community to protect innocent civilians while military strikes are going on," said spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker.

"People need to distinguish between combatants and those innocent civilians who do not bear arms. They also need to be mindful for protecting assets essential for the survival of Afghan civilians."






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