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Red Cross protests bombing of Kabul warehouse

The Pentagon has admitted that its bombs had 'inadvertently
The Pentagon has admitted that its bombs had 'inadvertently" targeted the warehouse  

By Joe Havely
CNN Hong Kong

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross has formally complained to the United States over the bombing of one of its warehouses in Kabul during U.S. led raids over the Afghan capital.

One Afghan guard employed by the ICRC was injured in the strike -- an incident Red Cross officials say will be highly damaging to morale among Afghan staff who work for the organization inside Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has since admitted that it mistakenly targeted the warehouse using 1,000 pound "precision guided bombs" dropped from a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet.

"Although details are still being investigated, the ICRC warehouses were among a series of warehouses targeted by U.S. forces because the Taliban used them for storage of military equipment," a Pentagon statement said.

"Military vehicles had been seen in the vicinity of these warehouses. U.S. forces did not know that ICRC was using one or more of the warehouses."

The Pentagon statement concluded saying U.S. forces "intentionally strike only military and terrorist targets, and regret any innocent casualties."

However, Red Cross spokesman Mario Musa, who was based in the Afghan capital until the middle of September, told CNN he had no knowledge of any military facilities located near to the warehouse.

'Clearly a Red Cross building'

The U.S. says military vehicles had been seen in the vicinity of the warehouse
The U.S. says military vehicles had been seen in the vicinity of the warehouse  

He said the compound hit -- which was used to store blankets, tents and plastic sheeting -- was located more than a kilometer from the end of the airstrip at Kabul's main airport. "It was clearly a Red Cross building" Musa said, speaking from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. "It had a large flag on the roof with a red cross about 3 meters across."

In a statement posted on its website the ICRC said two bombs fell on the warehouse shortly after 1300 local time Tuesday.

"The ICRC strongly regrets this incident, especially as one of its staff was wounded. It has approached the United States authorities for information on the exact circumstances," the statement said.

"International humanitarian law obliges the parties to conflict to respect the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems and to take all the precautions needed to avoid harming civilians."

'Blow to morale'

Musa said the bombing would be "a big blow to morale" for the 1,000 highly dedicated Afghan staff employed by the ICRC who have continued to carry out the organization's work after international staff were ordered to leave on September 16.

He said their continued efforts to get aid to those in need was "an example of devotion and attachment to humanitarian principles."

Red Cross officials said the equipment destroyed in the bombings was intended to help thousands of Afghans facing the onset winter.

In recent days several aid agencies have called for an increased international effort to build up stores of food and shelter across Afghanistan before snows beginning in mid-November make large areas of the country inaccessible.

Most expatriate Red Cross officials evacuated from Afghanistan have been moved to Pakistan from where they are trying to coordinate relief efforts.

Musa said that since the attacks communications with staff inside Afghanistan have been sharply reduced and they are reliant on one daily radio contact agreed to by the ruling Taliban authorities.

The Afghan guard injured in Tuesday's blast was said to be in a stable condition in hospital.


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