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AC-130 Gunship Possibly Responsible for Sunday Night's Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan - 2002-07-03


U-S defense officials say an AC-130 gunship may have been responsible for Sunday night's firing incident that killed up to 40 Afghan civilians, many at a wedding party.

Marine Corps General Peter Pace said Tuesday that the gunship attacked several targets in the area of the incident, in response to what its crew thought was ground-based anti-aircraft fire.

Afghan officials say members of the wedding party were firing rifles into the air in revelry -- a tradition at ethnic Pashtun weddings.

The Pentagon says a joint U-S-Afghan team is questioning villagers about the incident, which took place north of Kandahar. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says it will take a few more days to determine exactly what happened.

President Bush has extended condolences for the loss of innocent life, no matter what the cause is determined to be.

Also on Tuesday, U-S soldiers in Kandahar came under enemy fire, after visiting a hospital to check on Afghan civilians who were apparently wounded in Sunday night's incident. A Pentagon spokeswoman said that six U-S soldiers were driving back to their base in the southern Afghan city when they were ambushed. She said one soldier was slightly wounded.

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