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Afghans say more civilians wounded

U.S. denies bombs hit villages

Wounded boy
Doctors say this boy in a Jalalabad hospital was among those wounded by U.S. bombing.  

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Residents of the Afghan village of Agom took a group of injured civilians they said were victims of a U.S. airstrike to the central hospital here early Sunday.

Military officials in Washington denied their weapons have been aimed at residential areas in that region.

More than a dozen people -- including children as young as 3 years old -- were taken to the hospital overnight, some with serious wounds. A CNN correspondent reported seeing five bodies. Authorities said eight were killed.

U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Compton denied the U.S.-led strikes targeted civilian areas.

"We know targets near Tora Bora, south of Jalalabad, fall into the realm of al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds," Compton said in a statement.

"We are sure we are hitting these targets and we can account for all munitions. Al Qaeda and Taliban members who choose to bring innocent civilians/family members into these complexes put these noncombatants at risk."

"The U.S. regrets any loss of innocent civilian lives," Compton said. "We will continue to destroy al Qaeda and Taliban leadership and the places they do business."

Afghans blame civilian casualties on U.S. airstrikes near Jalalabad, but the United States denies bombs hit villages (video contains graphic war images) (December 2)

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The U.S. Central Command issued a similar statement Saturday after the regional security chief for Nangarhar province -- also near Jalalabad -- said 50 Afghan villagers were killed and five others, including two boys, were wounded not far from Tora Bora. One boy was in critical condition after losing both hands.

U.S. warplanes have launched extensive raids in the area around Tora Bora, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) from Jalalabad. The area is home to an extensive series of caves and tunnels American officials said are occupied by al Qaeda or Taliban fighters.

"There were 12 persons in our family," wounded villager Ikbal Udin said through an interpreter. "I was outside the house. The airplanes bombed, and when I returned to the house, all the people were killed."

A U.S. military spokesman said no U.S. airstrikes had gone astray.

"We've reviewed all means available," said Maj. Brad Lowell, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command. "We had good imagery on these. We saw the weapons hit their targets, which were cave and tunnel systems. There were no buildings in view to depict or suggest residential areas."

Lowell said U.S. warplanes conducted bombing runs early Friday morning.

"We had good imagery from the bombing runs," he said. "The rounds fired in the area were on target and have all been accounted for."

The United States holds al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden responsible for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which killed nearly 4,000 people.

American attacks on Afghanistan began October 7 to destroy al Qaeda and the ruling Taliban, which harbored bin Laden.

A local military commander who visited the Jalalabad hospital said U.S. bombs destroyed a building used by district authorities. "The people who are ... injured, they cry," said Haji Zaman. "And we are the villagers. After we went there for the help of these people, they [U.S. warplanes] shoot again."

Over the past few days, local leaders have sent emissaries to tribal elders in the Tora Bora region to get the fighters to give themselves up or simply leave the area. A response was expected by Monday.

If the fighters do not agree to the request, local leaders were prepared to launch a military assault in the area and would seek U.S. military support for it, they said.

-- CNN Correspondents Brent Sadler and Jonathan Aiken contributed to this report.


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